Regime Shifts in Future Shoreline Dynamics of Saudi Arabia

Arjen Pieter Luijendijk*, Etiënne Kras, Vasiliki Dagalaki, Robin Morelissen, Ibrahim Hoteit, Roshanka Ranasinghe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Saudi Arabian tourism sector is growing, and its economy has flourished over the last decades. This has resulted in numerous coastal developments close to large economic centers, while many more are proposed or planned. The coastal developments have influenced the behavior of the shoreline in the past. Here we undertake a national assessment on the state of the coast of Saudi Arabia based on recent data sets on historic and future shoreline positions. While at national scale the shoreline is found to be stable over the last three decades, the Red Sea coast shows a regional-mean retreat rate while the Gulf coast shows a regional-mean prograding behavior. Detailed analysis of the temporal evolution of shoreline position at selected locations show that human interventions may have accelerated shoreline retreat along adjacent shorelines, some of which are Marine Protected Areas. Furthermore, reef-fronted coastal sections have a mean accretive shoreline change rate, while the open coast shows a mean retreat rate. Future shoreline projections under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 show that large parts of the shoreline may experience an accelerated retreat or a change in its regime from either stable or sprograding to retreating. Under the high emission RCP 8.5 scenario, the length of coastline projected to retreat more than doubles along the Red Sea coast, and approximately triples along the Gulf coast in 2100. At national scale, the Saudi Arabian coastline is projected to experience regional-mean retreats of ~30 m and of ~130 m by 2050 and 2100 under both RCPs considered in this study. These results indicate that effective adaptation strategies will be required to protect areas of ecological and economic value, and that climate resilience should be a key consideration in planned or proposed coastal interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number798657
StatePublished - Jan 5 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Luijendijk, Kras, Dagalaki, Morelissen, Hoteit and Ranasinghe.


  • Arabian Gulf
  • coastal erosion
  • Persian Gulf
  • regime shift
  • Saudi Arabia
  • sea level rise (SLR)
  • shoreline dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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