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 Building with Nature Guideline > Projects > Knowledge - Managed Realignment Schemes

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Knowledge - Managed Realignment Schemes

Abstract: Controlled moving primary high water-defence lines to more inland positions is a suitable method to prepare for increasing water levels in future.

Technology Readiness Level: 9 (several successful applications completed)

Environment: Sandy shores, Estuaries, Lakes and Rivers
Keywords: shoreline protection, controlled retreat, intertidal planes, ecosystem integration


Controlled inundation of land by setting back sea defences is an increasingly used method for coastal protection and anticipation to climate change. In the United Kingdom this so-called “managed realignment” is applied widely and considered a cost-effective and sustainable response to loss of biodiversity and sea level rise. It is also applied in other countries such as the United States, Germany and Belgium.


By re-inundating land the coastline is placed backwards and new intertidal area is created. The area is enclosed by a secondary dike on the landside to ensure safety of the hinterland. The goal is to create the right circumstances for succession of saltmarsh vegetation. Once saltmarshes develop the vegetation will enhance sedimentation and the area will become higher and is able to grow with sea level rise. Saltmarshes can reduce wave energy and improve the stability of the dike.

Picture: Trimley Marsh Managed Realignment Site.


Managed Realignment can be applied to many different situations that fall within the scope of coastal and flood management. Succes is also dependend on local boundary conditions. It is important to be clear on the aim and purpose of the proposed project at the beginning. Without this it may be difficult later to determine the success/failure of the scheme in meeting its objectives. It is also important at the outset of a project to identify any potential opportunities and/or constraints. Managed Realignment presents the opportunity for a variety of benefits, though such opportunities may also have associated constraints.

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Design and Construction

The Managed Realignment electronic platform provided a schematic picture of the total planning and design process of a Managed Realignment . All steps are mentioned in this picture. The detailed descriptions can be read from the website.

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Project Delivery / Construction

Royal Haskoning (2010) provides some recommendations about the construction phase of the Managed Realignment. The recommendations consider the way of creating desired elevations and establishment of vegetation. Further recommendation on the construction of managed realignments are listed in CIRIA (2004).

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Operation and Maintenance

A managed realignment project does not end when the construction is finished. After construction the management and maintenance phase starts. Different strategies can be applied. One of the main post-construction strategies of a managed realignment is Adaptive management and monitoring.

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Lesson Learned

Many lessons have been learned, to such extent that the principle of Managed Realignment is becoming a reliable practice. Nevertheless, as several systems need more time for 'full response' more lessons can still be learned from log-year monitoring campaigns.

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Press moments

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