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1st Meeting Dunkerque (Northern France) 2005 – Conference Report


1st Meeting Dunkerque (Northern France) 2005 – Conference Report

A joint INQUA – IGCP 495 Meeting

International Conference and Field Trip on:

Late Quaternary Coastal Changes Sea Level, Sedimentary Forcing & Anthropogenic Impacts

Dunkerque (Northern France)

28th June – 2nd July, 2005

INQUA Subcommission on Coastal Processes and Sea-level Changes North and West European Working Group and Working Group on Short-term sea-level records and coastal vulnerability International Geoscience Programme #495 – Quaternary Land-Ocean Interactions: Driving Mechanisms and Coastal Responses.

Conference Report

This meeting was jointly organized by Cecile Baetman (Belgian Geological Survey), Méha Mrani, Mylène Ruz (Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale) and Roland Gehrels (Plymouth University). The meeting was based at the Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale for the conference presentations and was followed by fieldtrips on the coast between Calais and the French-Belgium border. The meeting formed a contribution both to the IGCP 495 project “Quaternary Land-Ocean interactions: driving mechanisms and coastal responses” and to the work of the INQUA Commission on Coastal and Marine Processes and in particular the INQUA North West European Working Group.

The meeting contained two full days of conference presentations, both oral and poster. The first session on Wednesday morning focussing on local coastal issues related not only to Holocene natural changes but also more recent human induced changes. The UK IGCP-495 working group was well represented in the subsequent paper session highlighting work on:

  • Destruction of Late Holocene wetlands in Romney Marshes – Antony Long (Durham)
  • Using proxy records from Danish salt marshes to reconstruct sea-level changes – Roland Gehrels, Katie Szkornik, (Plymouth) and Jason Kirkby (John Moores)
  • Isostatic rebound modelling in Scotland and Britain – David Smith and Peter Fretwell (Oxford)
  • Dating recent accretions in Arne Salt marshes, Poole Harbour – William Marshal, Roland Gehrels (Plymouth)
  • Little Ice age impacts on NW European dune development – Julian Orford, Garry Galbraith (Queens)
  • Land-ocean sediment recycling forming barrier dunes in South Africa – Mark Bateman (Sheffield)

Overall, presentation primarily focused on coastal regions, both on-shore and off-shore, around the English Channel, North sea and Baltic sea although there were presentations of research from further a field, e.g. USA, South Africa, Israel, Italy and Iran. This focus on NW Europe proved fascinating in highlighting not only the striking differences in sea-level histories over relatively short distances but also similarities both in terms of processes and histories either side of the English Channel and beyond.

With the conference papers over the following two days were spent looking at a variety of different aspects relating to the coastline along the French-Belgium border region. This started to the south-west of Calais with discussion of the evolution of the cliffs there and moved onto the alternating tidal flat and peat deposits behind the coastal dunes. Here concentrated coring over a number of years has lead to a very detailed understanding of the dynamic relationship that this area has had between sea-level and coastal changes. Day two started in Belgium looking at Late Holocene dune building and recent human impacts on beaches due to development of the coastal dunes and hard engineering of the coastline. This was directly comparable to the less engineered and not eroding, dunes and beaches on the French side of the border. Both successful and less successful conservation efforts in the dunes were examined and debated. Interestingly, although many beaches still bear the scars of both World Wars these bunkers now serve as time markers against which to monitor the accretion or erosion of dunal systems.

The conference organisers are commended for such a well balanced and well organised meeting both in terms of the quality of scientific research presented and also the time and trouble in organising and visiting such good localities as part of the field visits.

For more information on IGCP Project 495 please contact Professor Antony Long ([email protected]) or to join the UK IGCP 495 working group contact Roland Gehrels ([email protected])

Dr Mark D. Bateman
Geography Department
University of Sheffield

Photographs by Cecile Bateman and Vanessa Heyvaert, Geological Survey of Belgium, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels.