The application of visualisation techniques for coastal zone management
It is widely recognised that organisations engaged in coastal management must
improve the ways in which the public are involved in coastal decision-making. In
particular, participation, consultation, and information provision throughout the
decision-making process needs strengthening. In recognition of this there have been
calls to develop new techniques to aid the communication of coastal information to
the public. It has been suggested that some of these techniques may involve the use
of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Whilst GIS are widely used by coastal
managers their application is hampered by the highly technical output that they often
produce. However, the advent of a Virtual Reality GIS (VERGES) provides
opportunities for the output of GIS analyses of coastal management decisions to be
presented in a format more suitable for widespread consultation and dissemination.
Using two study sites on the north Norfolk coast of England, an integrated GIS
methodology is presented, allowing virtual reality representations of the current site
environment and that which might be present following a management intervention to
be created. Static images, animations and user-navigable visualisations have been
produced as these lend themselves to both paper and electronic publication.
Comparisons between these alternative methods are presented along with a discussion
of the technical issues associated with them.
Both individual and group survey experiments have been conducted to assess user
perceptions and understanding of the visualisations, and their use in the economic
valuation of coastal management interventions. These have been accompanied by
interviews with coastal managers to identify the potential role of the methodology and
any institutional barriers to its practical application. From the results it is argued that
the techniques presented have the potential to stimulate meaningful discussion
between coastal management organisations and the public, although further practical
research is required to determine the exact form this may take.