Tides, coasts and people: culture, ecology and sustainability.
Tides are an important (and often neglected) process in the UK coastal environment and globally. The Nature Conservancy Council (1991) identified 155 tidal estuarine areas around UK shores and calculated that, ‘9,320 km of estuarine shoreline makes up 48% of the longest estimate of the entire coast’.
These estuaries are highly dynamic natural systems and can contain vast intertidal areas. They are often linked to large conurbations through ports, industry and transport links.‘18,186,000 people live in large towns and cities adjacent to estuaries’ in the UK (ibid). In such ‘ macrotidal areas’ (where tidal range exceeds 4 – 6 metres in height) coasts are ‘considered to be tide-dominated, in that most erosional, transport and depositional processes are tidal driven’ (Haslett 2008: 79). Tides not only shape the coast itself but also ecology, culture, economy, and rural/urban land use (Jones 2010a) in coastal hinterlands. Tidal dynamism brings great challenges to the governance of spaces like estuaries in physical, political and management terms (Severn Estuary Partnership 2001). They also have significant impacts on local senses of place and landscape, and other strong cultural resonances (Jones 2010b). Tidal processes and spaces are facing great uncertainty from a range of pressures/risks which include sea level rise, tidal power generation schemes (Severn Barrage), land reclamation for development (Nature Conservation Council 1991), permanent inundation for urban development (as in Cardiff Bay), and the engineering and managing of tidal rivers. In this paper Dr Jones will discuss the cultural impacts of tides at individual and local (community) level using examples from the Severn Estuary, and introduce the idea of tidal rhythms in landscape and material culture. Drawing upon the findings of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship, Natasha Barker (Barker 2008) will outline cultural differences between three estuaries with some of the highest tidal ranges in the world, including the Severn Estuary. The way people live and work with (or against) the tide will be illustrated, together with the way tidal landscapes are governed and observations made on the implications for sustainable management.
Key words: tides / culture / costal management / sense of place / sustainability
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2011