Arctic permafrost coasts, which account for 34% of the coasts of the Earth, are extremely vulnerable to climate change, because the frozen bluffs, upon contact with seawater, lose the cohesion provided by the permafrost matrix and are instantly washed away by incoming waves.
With warming in the Arctic expected to be roughly twice as high as the global mean, sea ice extent is expected to decline dramatically and induce favourable conditions for coastal erosion. The subsequent impacts include threats to infrastructure and changes to the nearshore food-web through the release of sediment and organic matter to the ocean. A comprehensive understanding of the processes at work at the local level is nonetheless still lacking and impeding any kind of prognosis on the trajectory of erosion rates. Process studies are therefore necessary to understand the response of Arctic coasts to environmental forcing and to better quantify the quantities of sediment and organic matter released by coastal erosion. COPER (Coastal permafrost erosion, organic carbon and nutrient release to the arctic nearshore zone) is tacking this issue by conducting a scientific programme assessing the pace and nature of sediment and organic matter transfer in the Arctic coastal zone in a geographically and temporally integrated framework, by focusing on contemporary erosion in the southern Canadian Beaufort Sea.