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600,000 for coast erosion probe

6 April 09 11:45 GMT

A "unique" underwater system to monitor coastal erosion is set to be tested off the south Wales coast later this year.

It is being developed by academics at Swansea Metropolitan University who say it could help millions of people living in coastal areas around the world.

More than £600,000 is being spent on the project, which researchers say will dramatically improve understanding of what is happening below the sea.

The system may be tested at Port Eynon on Gower and Tenby in Pembrokeshire.

The university's Dr Mike Phillips said attempts to understand coastal erosion had largely been done by observations and measurements of exposed coastal areas, such as beaches, but details of what was happening below the sea's surface had not been measurable.

"This will have significant implications for coastal management," he said.

"The system represents a step change in the accuracy, volume and timeliness of data available.

"With worries over global warming and its consequential expected impacts, this project will provide valuable data to quantify these effects more completely.

"Because of the vital information that it would provide, such a system has the potential to save many millions of pounds and to have a positive impact on millions of lives around the world."

His colleague Ian Wells added: "The pioneering aspect of this project is that we are using electromagnetic technology which is almost always used on land but hasn't, up until now, been possible underwater.

"This means we can now take measurements that were unable to be collected previously."

They university is working with two companies - Wireless Fibre Systems Ltd (WFS) and Valeport Ltd - on the project funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

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