越来越多的欧盟人口居住在沿海地区。 大约一半的欧盟人口居住在距海岸 50 公里或更短的地方，其中 19% 的欧盟人口（8600 万人）居住在 10 公里的沿海地带。 未来这些数字很可能会增加。 总的来说，这既对沿海资源提出了日益增长的需求，也增加了人们对沿海灾害的暴露程度。
沿海地区是动态复杂的多功能系统。 大量经常相互冲突的人类社会经济活动发生在这些地区。 其中包括城市化、旅游和娱乐活动、工业生产、能源生产和输送、港口活动、航运和农业。 沿海系统还具有重要的生态和自然价值； 它们的高栖息地和生物多样性是维持沿海过程和提供对人类福祉也必不可少的生态系统服务的基础。 人类活动常常与保护自然海岸系统及其生态过程的需要相冲突。 在气候变化的背景下，高度城市化和基础设施完善的沿海地区尤其受到关注，因为它们可以极大地限制甚至阻碍自然适应过程，例如内陆迁移或湿地系统的垂直增长。
A significant and increasing share of the EU population lives in coastal areas. Approximately half the EU population lives 50 km or less from the coast (ESTAT, 2009), with 19% of the EU population (86 million people) living within a 10 km coastal strip (EEA, 2006). It is likely that such numbers will increase in the future. Collectively, this is both placing growing demands on coastal resources as well as increasing people’s exposure to coastal hazards (Sterr et al., 2003).
Coastal areas are dynamic and complex multi-function systems. A wide number of often conflicting human socio-economic activities occur in these areas. These include urbanisation, tourism and recreational activities, industrial production, energy production and delivering, port activities, shipping, and agriculture. Coastal systems are also characterised by important ecological and natural values; their high habitat and biological diversity is fundamental to sustain coastal processes and provide ecosystem services which are essential also for human well-being (MEA, 2005). Human activities often conflict with the need to preserve natural coastal systems and their ecological processes. In the context of climate change, highly urbanised and infrastructured coastal areas are of particular concern since they can drastically limit and even impede natural adaptive processes, such as inland migration or vertical accretion of wetland systems.