Storm Xynthia, which hit the French Atlantic coast on 28 February 2010, flooded vast territories despite coastal defences. This disaster highlighted the need to further study the behaviour of the coastal flood protection systems at an adapted geographical scale by considering the kinematics of the events. This objective has been achieved through a combination of conceptual input on the definition of protection systems, significant breakthroughs in the knowledge of the mechanisms governing the flooding, and via the improvement of strategies and methods dedicated to flood analysis and representation. The developed methodology was successfully tested on four sites submerged during Xynthia (Loix, Les Boucholeurs, and Boyardville, located in Charente-Maritime, and Batz-sur-Mer, located in Loire-Atlantique). This work is intended to guide the diagnosis of sites prone to marine flooding from the first investigations until the delivery of study reports. Beyond the usual focus on hydraulic structures, it provides guidelines to better analyse the interactions with the natural environment (sea, soil, dune, wetlands, etc.) and with the built environment (roads and urban networks, ponds used for fish farming, buildings, etc.). This systemic approach, which is applied to a territory considered as a complex adaptive system, is fundamental to understanding the reaction of a territory during a marine submersion event and subsequently developing adaptation or transformation strategies.
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