UU scientists study Murlough Bay's coast to predict how to protect it

  • A team of coastal scientists from Ulster University is conducting regular surveys of Co Down’s Murlough Bay beach system to find out how and why the coastline changes.

    Their findings will be used to predict future changes and help better plan how society can use and protect the coastal environment.

    The work is part of a €6.4 million European environment project called MarPAMM (Marine Protected Area Management and Monitoring).

    The initiative aims to develop tools and plans to protect vulnerable marine habitats and species in the waters between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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    Murlough Bay runs from Newcastle to Dundrum, and this beach study will explore how climate-related processes - including sea-level rise and storms - may alter the physical environment that supports protected species and habitats on Northern Ireland’s coasts.

    Ulster University’s Professor Derek Jackson is a lead scientist on the project and said: "Using ground-based survey technology, we can now study relatively rapid changes in the movements of beach sands on this site.

    “Research to date has shown that the once golden beaches at the promenade at Newcastle have over the past few decades been pushed down the coast towards Ballykinler through wave and tidal action. With increased storm events we are studying how this may present itself in the near future."

    Beach scientist Dr Melanie Biausque added: "We visit the site every month and for the next few years this will help generate a visualisation of surface height changes on the beach, telling us how waves have moved sand around under different wave events.

    “These are incorporated in a computer model that should allow us to see how future storms will react with the underlying sandy seabed and beach."

    Another Ulster University researcher on the team, Dr Edoardo Grottoli has been collating information of Murlough Bay’s coastal past changes using historical maps, old aerial photography and previous accounts of storm impact.

    He commented: "Past events will show us to better understand how important patterns of change have unfolded through time and how the coastline is evolving to present and future positions."

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    Source: Written from press release

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