The coast is a highly utilised and dynamic region that has environmental, social, economic and recreational value, and is hence an intricate and challenging system to manage. To facilitate effective coastal management, various frameworks for assessing the current state of regions of the coastline have been developed. An integral component of these frameworks is the development of a means to assess the vulnerability of the coast and sensitivity to change, proposed to be implemented by the development of Coastal State Indicators.
Indicators seek to quantify the relevant coastal parameters for a region, enabling a ‘score’ to be established for that region, and the coastline to be classified as sensitive or resilient, and vulnerable or stable. It is these classifications that will provide guidance to coastal managers when making decisions about future infrastructure and development for the coastal region.
Current classification methods are primarily concerned with biodiversity and ecological parameters, such as water quality, species diversity and abundance. The indicators developed within the scope of this investigation focus more on the coastal processes, such as shoreline movement, storm surge impact, wave climate, vegetative cover and dune systems. Consideration of economic, social and ecological parameters was also covered with the inclusion of measures such as water quality, land use and tourism value.
As this is a relatively new field, further refinement of these indicators and quantification of such will be necessary. Inherent problems encountered thus far are mainly due to the availability and consistency of data, particularly historical data sets. Changes that occur over a six-month period are often insignificant when compared to a longer timeframe, which emphasises the need for quality, long-term data.