7. June 2024 | Press releases:

Coastal protection: innovation alone is not enough METAscales project explores sustainable approaches for safer coasts

The United Nations World Oceans Day on 8 June draws attention to the importance of the oceans for the global ecosystem. In this context, coastal protection also comes into focus, particularly against the backdrop of climate change and the associated rise in sea levels. How coastal communities can protect themselves against natural hazards and extreme events in the long term is the subject of a research project at Technische Universität Braunschweig. “METAscales” aims to integrate not only technical but also socio-economic aspects into coastal planning, coastal protection and risk management. Scientists from various research fields, stakeholders from coastal communities and authorities are involved in participatory living labs.

Rising sea levels are increasing the risk of coastal disasters and posing unprecedented challenges for coastal communities. In order to live safely on the coast in the future, not only new solutions are needed, but also a new understanding of how to deal with maritime hazards. After all, innovation alone is not enough: the solutions must also be socially acceptable and anchored in a robust adaptation strategy. This is where “METAscales” comes in, bringing together different disciplines and stakeholders to develop sustainable and flexible ways of adapting to sea level rise. The project involves scientists from the fields of Coastal Engineering, Hydrology, Climate Modelling, Oceanography, Remote Sensing, Urban and Spatial Planning and Social Sciences.

Adaptation strategies for harbours

The Junior Research Group “Future Urban Coastlines” at TU Braunschweig plays a key role in developing new adaptation strategies for coastal infrastructures and harbours. “The aim is to identify weak points and develop robust, flexible adaptation strategies that include both technical and organisational-strategic solutions,” says the head of the group, Dr. Gabriel David. Close cooperation with the port company bremenports is also of central importance here, as the Junior Research Group is specifically concerned with critical infrastructure and its function under rising sea levels.

Improving flood risk assessment

Another important component of the project is the work of the Department of Hydrology and River Basin Management at the Leichtweiß-Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources at TU Braunschweig. It is involved in researching flood risks in coastal lowlands. “Our focus is on the analysis of floods caused by a combination of factors such as storm surges, river floods and heavy rainfall events,” explains Professor Kai Schröter, head of the department. By applying statistical methods to estimate the probability of occurrence of such extreme events and developing a chain of risk models, it is possible to realistically quantify the risk and develop effective adaptation strategies. This work is crucial for strengthening the resilience of affected areas.

New coastal protection concepts for a flexible response to extreme events

The Department of Hydromechanics, Coastal and Ocean Engineering at the Leichtweiß-Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources (headed by Professor Nils Goseberg) focuses on the development of ecological and sustainable coastal protection concepts within “METAscales”. This includes new dyke systems and flood protection systems that can react flexibly to extreme events. Special attention is given to nature-based solutions such as ecologically adapted breakwaters. These concepts will be analysed – both experimentally and using numerical models – in terms of their effectiveness and environmental compatibility.

Living labs with the local community

The project partners aim to transform adaptation to climate change through transdisciplinary living labs that bring together different disciplines and the local community. The aim is to raise awareness and develop realistic options for a strategy that includes both coastal adaptation and disaster risk reduction. This will be done in cooperation with stakeholders, external actors and community representatives. To ensure that the measures are successful, sustainable and feasible in practice, planning and decisions will be closely coordinated with the communities on an equal footing. METAscales will work in two jointly selected living labs. In these labs, the needs of a local community at risk will be identified, the necessary measures will be identified together with scientists and stakeholders, and possible courses of action will be discussed.

Project data

The joint project METAscales (Marine Extremes Transforming CoAsts- pathways for coastal adaptation across scales) is part of the third research mission mareXtreme “Wege zu einem verbesserten Risikomanagement im Bereich mariner Extremereignisse und Naturgefahren“ (Pathways to improved risk management in the area of marine extreme events and natural hazards) of the Deutschen Allianz Meeresforschung (DAM) (German Marine Research Alliance). The mission is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the science ministries of the northern German federal states (Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein) with a total of around 20 million euros over three years (since 1 January 2024). The METAscales project accounts for around 5 million euros of this. In addition to TU Braunschweig, the following partners are involved in the project: Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz Deutschland (German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation), Landesverband Bremen e.V., Kiel University, Leibniz University Hannover, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR), Helmholtz-Zentrum hereon GmbH, Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg, Niedersächsischer Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz (The Lower Saxon Department for Water, Coastal and Nature Conservation), Hamburg University of Technology, Universität Hamburg and University of Stuttgart.

Further information about mareXtreme: