Welsh coastal storms, December 2013 and January 2014 – an assessment of environmental change
Natural Resources Wales has completed its environmental audit on the impact of last winter’s storms on wildlife and coastal conservation sites
The effects of the winter storms are still being witnessed. Large boulder fields, uncovered by the storms, are being inundated with algae, as shown in this photo taken as part of the MarClim survey.
In December 2013 and January 2014, significant storm surges and relatively powerful waves, in combination with high tides, caused considerable disruption along the Welsh coast.
Following the storms, we carried out an environmental audit of the storms' impact on wildlife and coastal conservation sites.
This report serves as a record of the degree of associated environmental change on both the physical environment and wildlife.
From this we can learn lessons from the storm and consider the implications for future environmental management and conservation in Wales.
Gathering post-storm environmental change records
We worked quickly with others to collate the available records of change. More than 80 records were submitted to inform the initial audit at the end of January 2014.
This, however, underlined the necessity for a more comprehensive approach in the future, which will require planning and co-ordination.
This provides potential opportunities, with regard to citizen science, use of digital and social media and developing the existing strengths of partnership working.
Understanding vulnerability and resilience
With the potential for increased storm magnitude and frequency due to climate change, it will be increasingly important to understand the vulnerability and resilience of our coastal habitats, species and geoconservation interests.
Many of these considerations are highly designated and will enable us to make appropriate detailed plans for the future of these sites.
Planning and delivering for the future
Building on the Strategic Shoreline Management Planning process, local delivery plans for coastal areas will need to consider the wider environment and the full range of ecosystem services, in order to deliver changes where appropriate, improve sustainability and build resilience to climate change.
This report identifies the additional work needed to improve our response to and understanding of coastal storm impacts in the future. We will be considering next steps, alongside our partners, as part of the wider coastal flooding review delivery plan. This will help to deliver a more integrated approach to coastal management in the future.
This report also fulfils Recommendation 36 of the Wales Coastal Flooding Review Phase 2 report (NRW 2014) – to complete ongoing updates to the Phase 1 ‘rapid’ assessment of environmental changes experienced during the December 2013 and January 2014 storms.