Climate Change

Climate change is predicted to both increase sea level and cause more frequent and intense storm events. These two processes have the potential to drive fundamental change on the coastal landscape.

Research at the Kennedy lab aims to understand what drivers underpin coastal geomorphology. Determining the boundary conditions that have shaped the coast in the past and present, can help determine tipping points for the future stability of coastal environments.

Current Research project in this theme:


Dune and beach sensitivity to environmental change

Coastal erosion is the result of sediment redistribution in the nearshore zone. Shoreline retreat in one area is balanced by sediment deposition elsewhere, either in shallow water or downstream along the coast. Changes in the position of the shoreline are driven by changes in the boundary conditions, namely sea level, sediment supply, storminess and human modifications (such as sea walls & vegetation change). The aim of this project is to develop a sensitivity index of soft sandy coasts to changing boundary conditions such as storms and sea level.

Funder: National Environmental Systems Program (Department of Environment)

Key Collaborators: CSIRO


Coral Reefs

Coral reefs and islands are considered to be the most vulnerable systems in the world to climate change. Their dynamics and form is intimately linked to sea level, so as it rises significant change can be expected to occur. Coral systems are not however static features. The sediments that they create, and which form islands, are constantly shifting around the reef platform. The links between the beaches that people live on and the reef ecosystem that creates the sediment is therefore critical.

Research in the Coastal Lab is focused on studying these dynamics in order to understand how vulnerable low lying nations are to future climate change with studies conducted throughout the Pacific (Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Niue), Australia and Mexico.


Funders: Department of Environment (Australia), AusAID, Australian Research Council.