Human Impact on the Coast

Coastal Use

People use the coast for a variety of needs:

  • Sunbathing
  • Swimming
  • Surfing

Although we love the coastline we have had a major effect on it.

There are 4 key areas which have affected the coastline:

  • Development
  • Agriculture
  • Industry
  • Coastal Management


It’s common in parts of the UK for ‘Crowded Coasts’ to be used as a term

Human Impact on the Coast, figure 1


Many people who work in London can no longer afford housing there, so some commute in from coastal towns and cities (Brighton)

Also a great place to retire – examples include Bournemouth and Blackpool.

Office Development

The high cost of London properties has caused for businesses to move out towards the coast

Many UK coastal resorts have universities and young populations that allow companies to expand there


Marshland and wetland is used to by farmers for grazing pasture for cattle:

  • The price of good farmland has risen sharply, from £2400 per hectare in 1995 to £30,000 in 2015.
  • Farmers have to maximise their income by using whatever land they can. The need for extra grazing is putting pressure on wildlife.
  • Climate change and rising sea levels are likely to lead to flooding by salt water during winter high tides, which could threaten the pastures.


Industry battles alongside coastal tourism.

Various locations across the UK have tourist areas next to industries.

  • The Solant, Southampton
  • The Severn estuary, Bristol
  • The Themes estuary, London

Coastal Management

Where areas suffer from high levels of erosion different protections strategies are implemented to protect the coastline.

Human Impact on the Coast, figure 1

It is not possible to completely stop the power of natural forces from changing the coast. People try to protect some areas from erosion but this can have negative impacts as well as positive.

The way the coast is managed can cause conflict. There are two types of coastal management:

Hard engineering - this involves building structures to protect the coast.

Soft engineering - this involves working with nature by using natural materials or allowing nature to take back areas.

How do humans use the coast.
Your answer should include: Swimming / Living / Sunbathing
Explain how human use impacts coastal areas. Give examples.
Your answer should include: Agriculture / Farming / Office / Development / Crowded / Coasts