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Definition and scope of coastal geomorphology

Coastal geomorphology is a branch of geomorphology in which the focus is on the area influenced by large bodies of water, including seas and oceans, and large lakes such as the Great Lakes in North America. It is perhaps best viewed as applied science and overlaps with other applied sciences such as geology, meteorology, oceanography, coastal engineering, and elements of biology

Prior to 1950, coastal geomorphology was highly descriptive and much of it was influenced by concepts related to the Davidian Cycle of Erosion. Coastal classification and description paid considerable attention to the effects of sea-level change and especially the role of the Holocene sea-level rise in producing drowned coastal features such as fjords (drowned glaciated valleys) and rias (drowned river valleys). Waves and currents were seen to operate to straighten and simplify the coastline by trimming headlands and building barriers across bay mouths.

Coastal evolution was therefore directed towards a simple, relatively static equilibrium. One branch of coastal geomorphology also followed the paradigm of denudation chronology, which attempted to reconstruct the detailed geological evolution of coastal landscapes. Much of this was guided by concepts of erosion cycles and interpretation based primarily on landforms rather than stratigraphy

The coastal zone: definition and nomenclature

As is the case in most areas of geomorphology, there are many terms used to describe coastal features and processes that are poorly defined and occasionally subject to misuse. Differences in meaning are also common among the different disciplines working in the coastal zone e.g. biologists, engineers, geologists and geomorphologists. Features associated with a general coastal profile as used in this book are illustrated Other definitions related to waves and to specific coastal environments are defined in the relevant chapters.

Controls on coastal development Coastal classification

The drive for simplification and order in all sciences inevitably leads to the generation of classification schemes, and the coast has received its fair share. Finkl (2004) provides a thorough review of these in the lead-up to presenting his own classification based on a project to classify coasts in terms of their suitability for amphibious landings. Most of the early classifications attempted to group similar landforms based on some major control or controls, such as tectonic history, processes shaping coastal evolution, or sea-level history

Factors influencing coastal morphology and processes

The drive for simplification and order in all sciences inevitably leads to the generation of classification schemes, and the coast has received its fair share. Finkl (2004) provides a thorough review of these in the lead-up to presenting his own classification based on a project to classify coasts in terms of their suitability for amphibious landings. Most of the early classifications attempted to group similar landforms based on some major control or controls, such as tectonic history, processes shaping coastal evolution, or sea-level history

 

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