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Coastal erosion


In the Russian Federation, 25,000 km of the 61,000 km total length of the marine coast suffers from severe erosion (1). Russian Arctic (permafrost) coastlines are particularly prone to erosion as rising sea levels encounter thermokarst areas. Thermal abrasion of areas of melting permafrost in areas of unconsolidated sediments results in rapid coastal recession. Thus in the Laptev Sea area, the coastline is receding by 2.5m/year (2).

Black Sea Coast

The Russian Black Sea coast length from Kerch Strait to Psou River is about 500 km. The Black Sea is non-tidal and sea level variation is defined by changes in water balance components. The average annual variation along the coast does not exceed 1 m. The northern part of this coastline consists of easily erodible rocks; average coastal recession is 0.7 m/year. Further south there is a 50 km sand bay-bar system with dunes and beaches, then a flysch zone with abrasion cliffs, and a mountainous coastline with gravel/pebble beaches (1).

The Tuzla spit, a large body of quartz sand, shell and pebble, is degrading and a dam was built to protect the coastline. Further south parts of the coast are protected by stone backfill spurs, vertical walls, reinforced concrete groins and piers; also, artificial beaches have been constructed for recreational use (1).

Sites where shore-protecting constructions have functioned for the longest time are in bad condition. A longshore transport stream of deposits  has been interrupted by a system of groins and breakwaters, which intercept practically all pebble and gravel material migration along the coast, so that beach restoration by natural ways is impossible. Artificial beaches under protection of beach-retaining structures are the optimal coastal protection method for the Russian Black Sea Coast (1).

Baltic Sea Coast - Eastern Gulf of Finland

Two segments of the Baltic Sea coastal zone belong to the Russian Federation: the Kaliningrad Region (150 km) and the Eastern Gulf of Finland (about 520 km).

The latter is made up of small rocky islands to the north-west, embayments to the south-west and a coastline open to storm surges to the east. Coastal recession to the east is 2-2.5 m/year at some locations, partly due to anthropogenic impacts of insufficient coastal protection system and intense recreational infrastructure development (1). A series of extreme storms accompanied with high surges, in autumn 2006 to winter 2007, caused abrupt erosion, and these events have changed the appearance of many coastal sections much more than decades of previous, relatively slow development. During these events, the water level rose more than 2 m above the long-term mean in St. Petersburg (3).  

Neva Bay area geometry is such that propagation of long waves into the eastern part of the gulf is accompanied by a rapid water level increase. During the history of St Petersburg (1703-2008), 307 floods higher than 160 cm occurred (4). Three of them were catastrophic. The highest surge ever (4.21 m) occurred on 19 November 1824. Tidal water level changes are very small, just 1-5 cm. Significant coastal protection measures, kilometers of embankments and many artificial islands should help to protect St Petersburg against floods and storms. St Petersburg flood protection works were completed in 2011 (1).

Baltic Sea Coast - Kaliningrad Region

The southeastern Baltic shore is an open sand coast with eroded cliffs and coastal lagoons separated by spit sand barriers from the sea. The coastline includes 48 km of the Curonian Spit and 35 km of the Vistula Spit. The mainland shore is under intensive permanent erosion, while the shores of both sand spits are characterized by alternation of eroded/accreted segments (Boldyrev and Bobyina, 2008). Tidal amplitude does not exceed 5-10 cm and maximum storm surges are 1.3-1.8 m (Gurova et al., 2008). The long-term average erosion is estimated to be 0.6-0.7 m/yr; intensification of erosion rates up to 0.8-1 m has been observed in recent years (1).

Adaptation strategies

Along the Gulf of Finland, problems of coastal erosion are becoming more important and further beach nourishment together with engineering structures such as T-form groins or submarine breakwaters parallel to the shoreline and usage of artificial reefs as breakwaters is being considered (1).

Over the last 300 years, several measures have been carried out to try to stabilize the coastline of the Kaliningrad Region along the Baltic Sea coast (planting pines, protective wall, groins). All coastal protection methods protect the shore immediately behind them but cause more intensive erosion further downstream (1).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Russia.

  1. Kosyan et al. (2013)
  2. Climate Change Risk Management Ltd (2008)
  3. Ryabchuk et al. (2009), in: Kosyan et al. (2013)
  4. Floods Catalogue, www.nevariver.u/flood_list.php, in: Kosyan et al. (2013)

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