Human Impacts on Coastal Environments

Discipline: Environmental Science
Instructor: Griggs
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 6 - Hong Kong - 11 February | China
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

An investigation of the impacts that the human population has had on the coastal zone and also the ways in which the coastal processes and hazard impact human settlement.

The coastal zone is where about 50% of the planet’s people have chosen to live and this percentage continues to increase. These billions of people can have profound impacts on this diverse and often fragile environment and the processes and hazards that characterize the coastal zone can significantly affect humans and their development and way of life. Topics to be included: The evolution and diversity of global coastlines; coastal hazards including: 1] hurricanes and storms, El Niños, subduction zone earthquakes and tsunamis, coastal erosion and inundation; 2] climate change and impacts: sea level rise, changing storm climate and ocean acidification; 3] runoff and waste discharge: sources and impacts of water pollution including thermal discharges; nutrients, fertilizers and harmful algal booms; pesticides and other chemical wastes including plastic in the sea; 4] extraction of petroleum and ground water and their impacts: oil in the sea, subsidence and seawater intrusion; 5] invasive species, overfishing and coral reefs.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 6 - Hong Kong - 11 February

This field lab will include a one-day journey around the shoreline of Hong Kong to observe the varied impacts of human activity and development on the coast. The day is designed to explore and see first hand a range of different coastal environments and human interactions in one of the most urbanized and densely populated coastlines on Earth. The trip will include a visit to Mai Po Nature Reserve where floating bird blinds allow for good viewing of migratory birds that use the area as a stopover/wintering location. The Reserve also allows observation of Deep Bay, and the effects of intensive development at Shenzhen, across the bay, which has been heavily impacted by years of fish farming, and major pollution coming down the Pearl River. Academic Objectives:

  1. Observe in the field, both a preserved Nature Reserve nearly adjacent to an intensively developed coastline and what alterations have taken place,
  2. Document in a summary report (in writing and photographically) the diversity of development or activities take place, and
  3. Evaluate 1) any limitations that the coastline has placed on development and 2) the impact that the development has had on the pre-existing natural coastal environment.