Coastal squeeze is now defined as ‘the loss of natural habitats or deterioration of their quality arising from anthropogenic structures or actions, preventing the landward transgression of those habitats that would otherwise naturally occur in response to sea level rise in conjunction with other coastal processes. Coastal squeeze affects habitat on the seaward side of existing structures.’
Coastal habitats will naturally adapt to a changing climate by migrating inland, but in highly populated areas like the Solent there is no room for this process to happen as the land is used for industry, housing or recreation and will be defended due to its high commercial value. There is a legal obligation to compensate for the impacts of maintaining coastal flood management infrastructure, or management activities that could lead to coastal squeeze.
It is also important to remember that habitats like saltmarshes and sand dunes act as natural coastal defences and their loss will lead to increasing pressure on manmade defences. Defences will need to be bigger and higher and the cost of their construction and maintenance will rise as this happens.
One of the most important issues in the future for the Solent's coastal planners and managers will be how best to protect the coast for human use whilst allowing for the retention and movement of habitats as sea level rises and wave conditions change.
In 2021, the Environment Agency published a report on coastal squeeze to better define and understand what causes it as well as to assess the best way of managing its past and future impacts.