InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society > Student Materials > Section 3: Coastal Engineering, Mitigation and Societal Response to Coastal Hazards > Module 8: Managed Retreat/Multi-Layered Protection > Managed Retreat: Introduction
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Managed Retreat: Introduction

Managed retreat or managed realignment is a coastal management strategy that allows the shoreline to move inland, instead of attempting to hold the line with structural engineering. At the same time, natural coastal habitat is enhanced seaward of a new line of defense. This approach is relatively new, but is gaining traction among coastal policy makers and managers in the face of increased coastal hazard risks. There is a growing recognition that attempting to "hold the line" in many places is a losing battle.

In many cased of managed retreat, human development is "moved" out of harm's way and natural areas are restored to enhance their ecosystem services. Typically, flood defenses are set back from the shoreline and flooding is allowed in the previously defended area. Usually, natural coastal habitat is preserved seaward of the man-made defense and it provides extra protection, or a buffer from flooding.

Managed retreat can be complex and often contentious as it can include delineating a new line to which structures can be built and home and business owners must be bought out.

Components of managed retreat may include:

  • Coastal planning
  • Relocation and buy-back and Buy-Out programs
  • Regulating types of development allowed
  • Designating no-build areas
  • Habitat restoration
  • Replacement of built environment with green space


In this module, we will explore examples of managed retreat in the U.S. and the U.K. to gain an understanding of the complexities of implementing these projects. We will also consider the discussions of managed retreat options in large cities that are particularly vulnerable to inundation.

In addition, we will look at the dilemma of whole communities facing decisions to relocate in the face of repeated flooding as well as other mitigation measures such as elevating homes and changing building codes.


These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »