About the project

Between 2016 and 2020, CoastWEB will holistically value the contribution which coastal habitats (including saltmarshes) make to human health and wellbeing, with a focus on the alleviation of coastal natural hazards and extreme events.  Working at a national and local scale, CoastWEB applies a range of techniques to understand the value/ values of saltmarshes in Wales.

As part of this, future interventions on salt marsh flood risk management capacity are explored using natural science and modelling techniques, improving our understanding of the ecosystem attributes which influence this capacity and how this might need to be taken account of in future management decisions. The impact on other saltmarsh ecosystem services (or natural benefits) is also being investigated.

Linkages between differing flood risk management interventions and changes in human health and wellbeing are also studied, at both a local community and national scale. Local wellbeing impacts are being explored using qualitative dialogue-based techniques, national scale impacts will be explored through quantitative (monetary and nonmonetary) survey techniques.

See our case study sites:

Taf Estuary 
Mawddach Estuary


CoastWEB is comprised of four interlinking work packages:

Venn diagram showing project work packages

Diagram showing work packages of coastweb

Work package 1: Historical context of health and wellbeing value of saltmarsh

Led by Angus Garbutt

As part of this work package, we have examined the place that saltmarsh occupies in the popular psyche by researching how saltmarshes have been framed historically within literature and the arts, and how this changed over time according to cultural change. Saltmarsh is often represented as a stage for human drama, not significant in itself but for what it stands for and for what takes place upon it. Traditionally seen as unhealthy and dangerous places only fit for reclamation, the 19th century saw resurgence of interest in liminal territories like saltmarsh corresponding to the increasing industrialisation of society and a romantic idealisation of peripheral communities living close to nature.
Since 1997, when the European Habitats Directive enshrined saltmarsh, it has experienced a shift from wasteland to vital habitat. Consequently due to renewed concern for its vulnerability to human impact and climatic influence every effort is being made to stabilise and enhance its condition. This is being currently being worked up as a text for publication under the title of “Sediment and Sensibility”. 

In addition, we have undertaken a collaborative study of the relationship between geomorphological change in the Taf Estuary over several centuries and the way in which the fortunes of the community of Laugharne have reciprocally adapted and evolved. The text for this study, titled “Within the Living Memory of the Dead”, is complete and, pending the completion of a number of illustrations will be ready for submission for publication.

Work package 2: Linking coastal habitats to coastal defence and wider ecosystem service provision

Led by John Griffin

Saltmarshes are expected to be effective in reducing wave heights and flooding in coastal areas. While this is undoubtedly true on exposed open coastlines, such as those found on the south-east coast of the UK, how important saltmarshes are in preventing flooding within sheltered estuaries that characterise much of the west coast is unknown. To assess the role of marshes in estuaries, we have created hydrodynamic computer models, looking at 6 estuary complexes in Wales, UK, with different characteristics. 

Our work focusses on characterising and understanding how salt marsh vegetation affects the hydrodynamic properties of estuaries; from how marshes prevent flooding by dampening waves, to how marshes on the edges of an estuary slow down and reduce the effect of surges that can flood upstream areas. We are also interested in how these relationships change with the shape of an estuary and how exposed the marshes are to prevailing wind and waves, properties which are likely to alter the importance of the marsh areas for flood mitigation. Our study also assesses the potential impacts of saltmarsh livestock grazing on flood attenuation and hydrodynamic properties, through reduced vegetation height and changing plant communities.

Collectively, assessing of the role of saltmarshes under these different contexts will help us understand the importance of estuarine marshes for flood mitigation, and help to inform future management decisions of saltmarsh areas to provide the greatest benefit to the local communities.

Work package 3:  Valuing changes in human health and wellbeing as a result of interventions applied to saltmarsh environments

Led by Olivia Rendón

This work package will derive values - qualitative and quantitative, tangible and intangible - of both direct and indirect health and wellbeing benefits at a local to Welsh national scale.  By using coastal defence interventions defined in WP4, this work package will explore trade-offs people are willing to make. Research in intangible environmental values and in longstanding valuation approaches are complementary to each other and provide a holistic view for decision making and policy. Thus, WP3 combines three approaches: an in-depth qualitative psychology approach of innovative data collection techniques in two case study sites, a quantitative psychology approach employing photo-rating of coastal environments and protection measures, and a national survey examining the monetary value of saltmarsh environments. These three approaches are then drawn together in synthesis to derive a holistic value for human wellbeing.

WP3.1: A narrative, psychosocial locally based case study on intangible environmental values for wellbeing
Led by Karen Henwood

This research employs a qualitative methodology - including semi-structured narrative interviews as well as mobile and visual methods - devised to 6d cultural values, and their contribution to human health and wellbeing. Focusing on two case-study sites in west Wales, our diverse sample (N=26) consists of people that live, work, and/or use the coast, including visitors/tourists; to examine use and non-use values.

WP3.2A: Monetary spatial valuation of saltmarsh benefits: Preferences for coastal defence
Led by Olivia Rendón

Using an environmental economics valuation approach, we attempt to monetarily quantify the benefits provided by saltmarsh ecosystem services. By implementing a discrete choice experiment we compare the preferences for a) increasing saltmarsh area, b) increasing saltmarsh with high vegetation and c) defence structures along the coast of Wales. These preferences are then mapped using spatial analysis to understand the variables influencing these preferences at national level.

WP3.2B: Perceived wellbeing: a comparison of coastal environments and flood protection
Led by Elizabeth Gabe-Thomas

Using an environmental psychology approach, we attempt to quantify some of the less tangible benefits provided by saltmarsh ecosystem services. By implementing a photo rating task we comparing the potential wellbeing benefits of salt marshes with a) other coastal environments and b) other flood protection measures through perceived psychological restorative potential and security from flooding.

WP3.3: Exploration of comparabilities, differences and complementarity of qualitative and quantitative values of wellbeing  
Led by Olivia Rendón

The qualitative findings WP3.1 and the quantitative outcomes from WP3.2A and B will be explored through a mixed methods approach to produce a comprehensive evaluation of human wellbeing values from saltmarshes for coastal flood protection.

Work package 4: Towards better understanding and integrated management of coastal wellbeing

Led by Rhoda Ballinger


WP4.1: Contextual background, case study selection and identification of management scenarios
Led by Meghan Alexander 

This research identifies potential Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) scenarios for the Welsh coastline, taking into account shoreline management policies and the different strategies employed in FCERM. These scenarios will be used in i) WP2 to examine the impact of different management interventions on saltmarsh ecosystems and flood protective capacity, ii) the choice experiment of WP3.2 and iii) in supporting the governance analysis performed in WP4.4 to better understand the opportunities and constraints of FCERM management approaches and the national well-being goals.

WP4.2: A saltmarsh poem; for the Taf and the Mawddach estuaries
Lead by Simon Read

This research focusses on developing an audio app that is designed to be listened to at specific locations while walking at our two case study sites.  The aim is to provide a poetic narrative to reflect the multidisciplinary research from the other work packages. The poem has been developed as a series of potentially autonomous nonlinear units. The audio consists of a main narrative which is broken down to stanzas and is interjected with specialist commentary from members of the team.  Influenced by Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, the different voices from the project are intended to make the poem feel more like a conversation or a play.

WP4.3: The ‘economic’ value of Natural Flood Protection from saltmarshes
Led by Brett Day

This work package explores the health and wellbeing effects of flooding in the estuaries of Wales. In particular, we focus on the potential flood damage mitigation that can be attributed to natural coastal flood control such as coastal vegetation (e.g. the vegetation in saltmarsh). This work draws directly on the hydrodynamic modelling in WP2 from the University of Swansea and extends to include economic / welfare values estimates. The economic estimates use the widely used and highly regarded methods outlined in the 'multi-coloured manual' (Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management: A Manual for Economic Appraisal) as well as the Natural Environment Valuation (NEV) model developed by the University of Exeter.

WP4.4: A governance analysis of Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management and the Well-being agenda in Wales
Led by Meghan Alexander 

In light of rising sea levels and climate change projections, difficult decisions need to be made about how best to manage our coastlines; balancing the need for sustainable Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) and the preservation of well-being.  In Wales, this is further reinforced by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. However, how to assess, align and negotiate the potential conflicts between FCERM and the well-being agenda remains unclear. Performing a governance analysis, this aspect of CoastWEB evaluates the extent to which FCERM governance facilitates or constrains the pursuit of well-being. Through stakeholder interviews and in-depth policy and legal analysis, the research identifies the challenges and opportunities for aligning these two agendas through multi-level governance mechanisms to inform recommendations for policy and practice.