Meet the Editor: Prof. Ian Townend, Anthropocene Coasts

September 18, 2017

The Canadian Science Publishing family of journals grew this year with the introduction of Anthropocene Coasts, a new international, interdisciplinary open access journal.  Founding co-editor Prof. Ian Townend (University of Southampton) shared with us how global perspectives of how humans are impacting coastal ecosystems are needed to inform social, economic, and legal processes. 

Welcome aboard! What is your favourite feature of coastal regions?

Being there. I like the contrasts between the tranquil and the raging sea. It is always changing and can provide an awesome display of the raw power of nature.

How is your research connected to the coastal environment? 

Having worked in several commercial research organisations, my research has largely focussed on delivering solutions to coastal problems. Over the last 20 years or so, environmental concerns have increasingly taken a central role in developments on the coast.  At the same time, environmental regulation has become stronger, and this has led to the need for improved understanding of the impacts of humans on coastal ecosystems. Such regulation has been the driver for much of my research in both estuaries and on the open coast, where I have focussed on system dynamics and long-term change.

What motivated you to join Anthropocene Coasts as one of its founding Editors?

Having worked on maritime and coastal problems for 40 years, I have experienced a wide range of problems. What has become clear to me is that developing solutions involves many players from a spectrum of different professions and disciplines. Having some knowledge of the art-of-the-possible across this spectrum not only provides a deeper understanding of the issues, but can also drive innovation and the identification of new solutions. I see that Anthropocene Coasts can play a key role in helping to break down silos and allow valuable exchange within the coastal community.

Coastal ecosystems span international borders. Why was it important for the journal to have an international partnership? 

One of the early lessons in the development of coastal zone management was the recognition that administrative boundaries (local, regional, and international) had to be respected, but that effectively addressing coastal issues may also require dialogue and action across these boundaries. This might then require co-ordination between managers and policy makers and also access to robust science that addresses the prevailing processes and systems at the relevant scale, which can vary from local to global. In developing robust science, sound management methods, and legal/policy frameworks that are fit for purpose, we need to share knowledge as widely as possible and an EastWest international partnership is an excellent way to promote this exchange.

What anthropogenic effects are coastal environments under threat of today?  

The impacts of climate change are well known and those such as sea level rise and changes in storm patterns have a direct impact on the coast. What is less well known is the double whammy that a vast array of coastal habitats now face. In addition to the pressure from the sea, there is an additional anthropogenic pressure from the land, due to human developments (including such things as roads, railways, power stations, coastal towns, and cities) and even in some cases land-based conservation interests (such as freshwater wetlands protected by sea defences). This means that the boundaries of coastal habitats are advancing or being held on both landward and seaward sides, squeezing some habitats out of existence. Given that some of these habitats are more productive than some of the best agricultural land and provide an array of valuable ecosystem services—this is a situation that needs urgent and well-founded attention.

What are emerging research techniques being used to understand anthropogenic impacts on coastal ecosystems? 

Over the last decade or so the big change has been the data that we can now collect or access. This is the result of developments in sensors, communications, and remote sensing. Together they have opened a huge array of possibilities, extending both spatial and temporal coverage in a way that was just not possible before (I remember in the past being very pleased if I had point measurements over one tidal cycle at more than a couple of locations!). The community is now working on realising the full potential of these tools to measure things in new ways and to then mine the data in ways that extend our understanding. At the same time, computational models get ever more sophisticated and new data and understanding allows the parameterisations, or even the way we represent systems, to be adapted to make better use of what we know.

How can research published in Anthropocene Coasts drive development of new environmental policies?

Policy makers need robust evidence to support the development of new policy.  This requires evidence to be based on sound lines of argument to well-posed questions, acknowledging any potential bias, providing evidence that can be depended upon and ideally is general (rather than site or problem specific)in other words, evidence that is well-founded, credible, objective, reliable, and transferable (see Shaxson, 2005). We hope that research published in Anthropocene Coasts will aim to meet these needs and to support those trying to make decisions about how we can best live and benefit from the fantastic resources of our coastal systems, without causing lasting damage.

What are you looking forward to the most in your new position as journal editor?

Seeing some exciting new research, learning about new ways of doing things, and helping to attract contributions that can showcase just how we interact with and influence our coasts. 

Learn more about Anthropocene Coasts—visit the journal's website today!

Filed Under: Meet the Editor Anthropocene Coasts

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