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Coasts Revision 

EQ1: Why are coastal landscapes different and what 

processes cause these differences? 
The Littoral Zone 
● This is the area between the land and the sea, stretching 
out into the sea and onto the shore. 
● The zone is subdivided into the backshore, foreshore, 
nearshore and offshore 
● The backshore is only affected by waves during high tides 
(often called spring tides) and during major storms. It is above sea 
level. This is where mass movement and weathering occurs 
● The nearshore refers to shallow water close to land. It is 
very there is most human activity, such as fishing and and leisure 
● Waves processes normally occur between the high and low 
tide mark. Erosion and deposition occur at the foreshore and 
The zone is in dynamic equilibrium due to the wide range of natural processes that interact within it 
These process can be short term (individual waves, tides etc) or long term (climate change) 
Inputs  Process  Output 

● Sediment from the sea  ● Erosion  ● Different types of coasts 

and currents from rivers  ● Deposition  - sandy beaches, wetlands 
flowing off the land  ● Weathering  ● Depositional landforms - 
● Human activity (e.g.  ● Transport  spits, tombolo 
dredging of offshore  ● Erosional landforms - 
areas to get sand and  arch, stack, stump 
gravel for construction 
Classifying coasts 
Coasts can be classified using longer term criteria such as geology, sea level rise as well as shorter term 
processes such as inputs from rivers, waves and tides - erosion and deposition which cause short term 
High and Low energy coasts 
  Low Energy Coasts  High energy coasts 

Waves  ● Constructive waves  ● Destructive waves 

● Calmer conditions  ● Storm conditions 
● Short fetch  ● Long fetch 

Processes  ● Deposition and transport  ● Erosion and transport 

● Sediments from rivers,  ● Sediments from eroded 
longshore drift and  land, mass movement and 
nearshore currents  weathering 

Landforms  ● Beach, spits, salt marshes,  ● Cliffs, wave cut platforms, 

sand dunes, bars  arches, sea caves 

General location  ● Coastal plain landscape  ● Highland and lowland 

● Lowland coast  coasts 
● Rocky landscape 
There are two main types of coasts 
● Rocky coastlines - with cliffs varying in height from a few meters to 
hundreds of meters 
○ Cliffed coast 
■ The transition from sea to land is abrupt 
■ At low tide the foreshore zone is exposed as a wave cut 
● Coastal Plains - land slopes towards the sea across an area of deposited sediment 
○ Estuarine coastline 
■ Estuarine are found at the mouths of rivers 
■ Extensive mudflats are exposed at low tide. 
■ Closer to the backshore the mudflats are vegetated 
■ Deposition of sediment from the land brought down to the coast 
by river systems can cause coastal accretion where the coastline 
moves seawards (e.g. through river deltas) 
○ Sandy coastline 
■ Sand dunes fringy many coastal plains 
■ Dune stablisation plays critical role in stablising the coast and 
preventing erosion 
■ Some are a result of a fall in sea level exposing the seabed of 
what was once a shallow continental shelf sea 
Concordant and discordant coastlines 
The shape of a coastline is largely determined by geology and wave action. 
Concordant Coastline (Pacific coasts) 
● Rock types lie in the same direction as the coastline - e.g. in South Dorset made from purbeck 
limestone, mudstone, greensand etc. 
● Dalmatian Coastlines 
○ The geology of Dalmatia is limestone,  
○ It has been folded by tectonic activity into a series of anticlines and 
synclines that trend parallel to the moden coastline 
○ These basins have been drowned by rising sea levels of create a 
concordant coastline of long, narrow islands arranged in lines 
● Haff Coastline 
○ Long sediment ridges topped by sand dunes run parallel to the coast  just 
offshore, creating lagoons (haffs) between the ridge and the shore 
Discordant Coastline (Atlantic Coasts) 
● Rock types is perpendicular to the coast 
● Alternating bands of hard and soft rock create headlands where there is more resistant rock (or an 
upfold) and bays (downfalls) where there is less resistant rock 
● Bays have semicircular shapes; as the waves enter the bay, the waves dissipate, lose energy and 
deposit a bay head beach. 
● Headlands protrude out into the sea 
○ The shape of a coastline causes wave to refract as they approach the headlands 
○ As waves approach the shallower water offshore a headland, they slow down and wave 
height increases 
○ and this concentrates the waves energy on a headland.  
● E.g. on the East Dorset Coastline, a bay has formed called ​Swanage Bay ​as the mudstone has 
eroded quicker than the purbeck limestone and and chalk, leading to headlands e.g. ​studland head 
Coastal Geomorphology 
Geological structures can influence on coastal morphology and erosion rates 
Cliff profiles are influenced by different aspects of geology, namely 
● The resistance erosion of the rock 
○ There are two main cliff profile types: maine erosion dominated or subaerial process 
■ At maine erosion dominated cliffs, wave action dominates, cliffs tend to be steep. 
There is little in the way of rock debris at the base of the cliff as its quickly broken up 
by erosion and carried away by waves 
■ At subaerial dominated cliffs, mass movement and surface runoff erosion dominates. 
They slowly move rock and sediment downslope by the limited marine wave erosion 
means it's not removed. 
● The dip of rock strata in relation to the coastline 
● The dip simply refers to the angle of the rock strata in 
relation to the horizontal 
● The angle can be tilted by tectonic activity 
● There are four main types:  
○ Horizontal - vertical profile with notches reflect 
strata that are more easily eroded 
○ Seaward dip, high angle - one rock layer faces 
the sea 
○ Seaward dip low angle - profile may exceed 90 
degrees producing areas of overhanging rock, 
very vulnerable to rock falls 
○ Landward dip - Very stable cliff with reduced 
rock falls 
Faults​ represent weaknesses within rock layers. They are major fractures due to tectonic activity. Either side 
of a fault tines, rocks are fractures and broken and these weakness can be exploited by marine erosion 
Joints​ occur at the division of rock strata up into blocks with a regular shape 
Fissures​ are smaller cracks in rocks, often a few cm or mm long but the represent weakness that erosion can 
Caves and wave cut notches occur at the location of faults, and or strata which have a high density of joints 
and fissures. 
● Regular patterns of joining in rocks are often a result of sedimentary rocks 
being folded by tectonic forces. 
● Folding occurs due to crustal compression. When horizontal stars are 
squeezed they can be folded into a series of anticlines and synclines.  
Differential Erosion rates 
Bedrock Lithology 
● Igneous 
○ E.g. Granite; basalt 
○ Very slow erosion rate 
○ Igneous rocks are crystalline - i.e. the interlocking crystals make for strong hard erosion- 
resistant rock 
○ There are few joints (e.g. granite) so there are limited weaknesses than erosion can exploit 
● Metamorphic 
○ E..g marble 
○ Slow erosion rate 
○ Crystalline metamorphic rock are resistant to erosion 
○ However, sometimes the crystals are oriented in one direction, producing weaknesses - called 
○ Metamorphic rocks are often folded and heavily fractured which are weaknesses the erosion 
can exploit 
● Sedimentary 
○ Sandstone; limestone  
○ Moderate to fast 
○ Tend to be clastic - i.e. made of cemented sediment particles 
○ The age of sedimentary rock is important as geologically young rocks tend to be weaker 
○ Rocks with many fractures, such as shale are often most vulnerable to erosion 
The weakest coastal material is unconsolidated sediment. E..g sand, gravel clay, that have not been 
compacted or cemented to become sedimentary rock. It is loose and easily eroded 
● Permeable rocks allow water to flow through them - e.g sandstone, limestone 
● Impermeable rocks do not allow water to flow through them including most igneous and 
metamorphic rocks 
● This is important as water can remove the cement that holds the rock together 
● It can also create high pore water pressure within cliffs, affecting their stability (leads to rotational 
● Some type of rock contain soluble minerals, and so are vulnerable to chemical weathering such as 
carbonation or hydrolysis 
The role of vegetation at the coast 
● Ecosystems at the coast include coral reefs, mangrove forests, salt marshes and sand dunes 
● Salt marshes and sand dunes are the most common in lowland UK areas 
● Most plants that grow in coastal environments are: 
● Halophytes - tolerate salt water 
● Xerophytes - Tolerate very dry conditions 
● Salt Marshes successional development in eustraline areas 
○ Common in low energy environments of estuaries and sheltered bays 
○ The river brings in fine muds and silts, depositing them at the sides of the estuaries whilst the 
tidal conditions bring seawater in and out 
○ The tiny clay particles stick to each other, in a process called flocculation, and once deposited 
they are colonised by algae 
○ OVer time, the plants trap more sediment which builds up the salt mash up to a higher level 
so that other plants can then colonise. 
● Sand dunes successional development on sandy coastlines 
○ Form when there is plentiful supply of sand, a large area of the sand to dry out, strong 
onshore winds to blow the sand towards the land and an obstacle such as vegetation to trap 
the sand.  
○ Embryo dunes form first and once established collect more sand and become larger 
○ Pioneer plants (eg sea rocket) colonse the stable dunes and help hold the sand together and 
trap more sand 
○ Yellow dunes are highest and are colonised by marram grass. 
○ Slacks form (dips in the succession) due to periods of wind erosions 
○ At high tide, seawater may reach the dips in the sand dunes, called slacks, allowing other 
plants such as marsh orchids to grow here. 
○ Mature dunes (also known as grey dunes) 
contain high humus content. 
○ The oldest dunes are closest to the land - 
the climax vegetation is either pine forests  or 
oak forests be 
How does vegetation stabilize sediment? 
● Roots of the sediment help bind particles together, making them harder to erode 
● Plants act as protective layer so the surface of the sediment is not directly exposed to move water 
and thus erosion 
● Reduce wind speed at the surface due to friction with the vegetation, reducing wind erosion 

EQ2: How do characteristics coastal landforms 

contribute to coastal landscapes 
Wave size depends on: 
● Strength of wind 
● The fetch (distance wind has blown over) 
● Water depth 
● Duration the wind blows for 
As waves approach a shoreline, the internal orbital motion of water touches 
the seabed, causing friction between the wave and the seabed, slowing down 
the wave. ITs wavelength decreases and wave height increases. It breaks in 
shallow water as the crest of the wave begins to move forward much faster 
than the trough as the trough experiences more friction with the sediment 
and the rock of the shore. The crest outruns the trough and the wave topples 
Constructive  Destructive 


● Low wave height  ● High wave height (over 1m) 

● Long wavelength - over 100m (so low  ● Shorter) wavelength (20m) 
frequency)  ● Waves have strong backwash and erodes 
● Gentle flat waves with a strong swash but  beach materia and carries it offshore, 
weak backwash  creating an offshore ridge or bar 
● Swash pushes sediment up the beach,   
leading to deposition 
● Relatively gentle beach profile 
In summer constructive waves dominate; in winter, destructive waves dominate 
A beach profile may change as destructive waves give way to constructive waves after a storm parsses 
Over long periods, beach profiles may change 
● Sediment supply from a river is reduced perhaps due to the construction of dams on rivers that trap 
sediment upstream 
● Coastal management in one place may alter processes further along the coast 
● If global warming made the UK climate stormier, than destructive waves would become more 
Erosional Processes 
● C​orrasion - or abrasion occurs when the sediment picked up by waves is thrown against the cliff face. 
This chisels away the surface and gradually wears it down as it abrades (or scratches) the rock.  
○ Loose sediment has to be available (for example shingle, or pebbles) 
○ Softer sedimentary rocks are more vulnerable than hard igneous rocks 
● A​ttrition - When boulders, rock particles, pebbles are continually moved around the waves, they 
collide with each other. The numerous collisions between particles slowly chip fragments of the 
sediment. The sediment becomes smoother, smaller and more rounded over time 
○ Process is faster with softer rocks 
● S​olution - or corrosion occurs when carbonate rocks are vulnerable to solution by rainwater, spray 
from the sea or seawater  
○ Mainly affects limestone, which is vulnerable to solution by weak acids 
● H​ydraulic Action - Air trapped in cracks and fissures is compressed by the force of destructive waves 
crashing against the cliff face. As the wave retreats, pressure forces the crack open. This process 
dislodges blocks of rock from the cliff face 
○ Highly jointed/fissured sedimentary rocks are very vulnerable 
Erosional landforms 
Wave cut notches 
● At high tide, destructive waves reach the base of the cliff 
● Through corrosion and hydraulic action, wear away the fock 
● A curved, wave cut notch forms 
Wave cut platforms 
● As the cliff is eroded at the base, the rock above is left unsupported leaving an overhang. This 
collapses under the influence of gravity. 
● As the cliff retreats, a wave cut platform is left behind between the high and low tide levels. 
● Cliffs are vertical slopes caused by waves undercutting the land at high tide. 
● As the cliffs are undercut, gravity is able to cause mass movement in the unsupported rock 
Cave- Arch- stack-stump sequence 
● At a headland waves will be refracted so that the full energy of erosion is concentrated on weakness 
on the sides 
● Hydraulic action and corrasion will form a ​cave​. E.g. Tilly Whim Cave 
● When these meet from opposite sides, a tunnel is formed called a rock ​arch ​- e.g Durdle Door 
● Eventually the top becomes unstable, and collapses, leaving a pillar of rock called a ​stack​. E.g. Old 
Harry Rock 
● WAves can continue to erode the base of a stack (especially during storm conditions) cutting notches 
in several sides. 
● The stack becomes unstable and collapses, leaving just the base called a ​stump ​e.g Old Harry’s Wife 
● Waves, tides and currents can transport sediment. For example rip currents, transport sediment from 
the foreshore to nearshore areas 
● Tide also determines what height on the foreshore or backfshore these processes may be operating. 
● The main transport process is longshore drift 
Longshore Drift 
● Prevailing wind may be an oblique angle. 
● Thus the waves approach the coast at an oblique angle (the strongest drift occurs at an angle of 30 
● The swash moves beach sediment up the beach at the same angle as the wave approach 
● Under the influence of gravity, the backwash brings the sediment back down at a right angle to the 
● Over time, the sediment zigzags along the beach  
Processes of sediment transport 
● Traction - Pebbles, boulders etc rolls along, pushed by waves 
● Saltation - sand sized particles bounches along, due to wind or 
force of water 
● Sediment (such as silt and clay) is carried in the water column 
looking murky 
● Solution - dissolved material is carried in the water as a solution 
Depositional Landforms 
Coasts can be divided into two broad categories 
● Swash aligned coasts - Wave crescents approach parallel to the coast, so there is limited longshore 
movement of sediment 
● Drift aligned coasts - Waves crests break at an angle to the coast, so there is consistent longshore 
drift and the generation of elongated depositional features 
Longshore drift as well as sediment from a river are key sources of sediment for depositional landforms on 
Deposition occurs due to: 
● Gravity Settling ​- The energy of the transporting water becomes too low to move sediment 
● Flocculation ​- Particles (e.g. of clay) clump together due to electric or chemical attraction and 
becomes large enough to sink 
Landform  Processes  Example 

Bayhead Beach  ● Swash aligned feature where waves break and move 
sediment into a bay where a beach forms. 
● Due to wave refraction, erosion is concentrated on the 
headland and the bay is an area of deposition   
Lulworth Cove, 

Spits (Recurved  ● Longshore drift carries sediment along a beach 

and double)  ● As the coast changes direction, due to an estuary or 
bay, the longshore drift current loses energy leading to   
deposition  Spurn head 
● Eventually salt tolerant plants grow in this area to form 
mudflats and a salt marsh 
● A curved spit end is curved landward into a bay. This 
occurs when there is a change in wind direction as well 
as tides and river currents moving in and out of the 
● A double split occurs when two spits have not joined to 
form a bar or cuspate foreland, because several rivers 
discharge their flows into the sea. 

Offshore Bars  ● Long ride of sand and pebbles found a short distance 
out to sea 
● It forms in shallow water, where destructive waves break 
before reaching the beach. This results in deposition of 

Barrier beaches  ● A spit can grow so long that it extends across a bay. 
and bars  Behind the bar, there is a shallower water lagoon 
● Nearshore bars are similar to barrier beaches but 
Tombolo  ● A sand or shingle bar that attaches the coastline to an 
offshore island. 
● Wave refraction around an offshore island creates an   
area of calm water and deposition between the coast  St Ninians 
and the island can occur  tombolo, Shetland 

Cuspate Foreland  ● Growth of two spits from opposing longshore drift 

directions cause a triangular shaped feature which 
extends out from a shoreline 
● Coastal deposition and alluvial deposits from small 
streams flowing into the bay because the area to fill up   
with sediment  Dungeness, Kent 
● Mudflats and saltmarshes form and the deposition will 
eventually be enough to form a new area of lowland 
Plant succession is very important as they bind the loose sediment together and encourage further deposition. 
Sand dunes stabilize the sediment landward of the beach. Depositional landforms are thus vulnerable when 
their generation is damaged. This happens due to overgrazing or trampling from tourism and leisure 
The sediment cell model 
● Long stretches of coastline 
operate as sediment cells 
● Each cell can be regarded as a 
closed system 
● There are 11 of these around the 
English and Welsh coastline 
● In each cell: 
○ Sources​ - places where 
the sediment is generated e.g. at cliffs. 
Some sources can be offshore bars. River 
systems can also act as important source 
of sediment for the coast 
○ Transfer​ z ​ ones​ - places 
where the sediment is moving along the 
shore through longshore drift and offshore 
○ Sinks​ - Locations where 
deposition is occuring. Landforms such as 
spits and offshore bars are created. 
● The system acts in a state of 
dynamic equilibrium with sediment inputs 
balancing the outputs to sinks 
● Negative feedback mechanism ​maintain the balance by pushing the system back to equilibrium 
(e.g. after as form where erosion may dominate)  
○ Major erosion of sand dunes could lead to excessive deposition offshore, creating an offshore 
bar that reduces wave energy, allowing the dunes time to recover 
● Positive feedback mechanisms can lead to disequilibrium in the coastal system 
○ Increasing storiminess could lead to long term erosion of sand dunes with no chance to 
recover between events 
Weathering Processes 
● Weathering is the break down of rocks in situ. It does not involved movement (unlike erosion) 
● Weathering processes can be ​physical​, c​ hemical​ or ​biological​. 
● They can operate between the low tide level and the cliffs or land of the backshore. 
● Climate plays an important role as it dictates temperature and moisture levels 
  Name  Processes 

Mechanical/Physical  Freeze-Thaw weathering  Occurs on coasts were the 

Break down of rocks  temperatures changes daily above 
due the exertion of a  and below zero 
physical force  Water seeps into joints and cracks 
in the rock and when it freezes 
expands, exerting pressure and 
forcing the rock apart 
Water expands by 9% in volume 
when freezing 

Chemical  Oxidation  Oxygen combines with iron based 

Weathering involves a  minerals in a rock, causing a 
chemical reaction and  chemical breakdown of the 
the generation of a  minerals 
new chemical 

  Carbonation  Dissolving of carbonate rocks due 

to acidic rain producing calcium 
bicarbonate in solution 
Limestone is specially vulnerable 

Biological  Boring molluscs  Molluscs live on coastal rocks, 

Plants bacteria or  scraping away at the rock surface 
animals accelerate  to get food or boring a hole in the 
chemical or physical  rock to make a home 
weathering  They can also secrete chemicals 
that dissolve rocks 

Plant roots  Trees and plant roots can grow in 

cracks and fissures forcing rocks 
Mass Movement 
Mass movement is the movement downslope of rocks, sand, clay or soil. 
● Block Falls ​Occur on steep slopes as a cliff face is weathered which 
loosens blocks and when wave erosion creates a wave cut notch, the 
overhang is no longer supported.  
○ Rock fragments fall to the base of the slope and form talus 
scree slopes 
● Rotational Slumping ​Occurs in unconsolidated sands and clays where a 
section of the cliff remains intact as it moves down a cliff along a curved 
cliff plane 
○ Permeable strata sits on top of impermeable strata allowing 
rainwater to percolate saturating the permeable sands, loading the 
cliff material 
○ Water is forced to move along the sand as the clay is impermeable creating a high pore 
water pressure in the sand and creates internal pressure within the cliff 
○ The curved failure surface develop in the sand and teh whole life rotates about a pivot point 
○ This leaves a crescent shaped rotational scar about it on the cliff 
○ A sequence of slumps will creates benches or a terraced cliff profile 
● Landslides - ​WEak rock s such as clay or unconsolidated sands can become saturated, lose their 
cohesion and flow downslope. 
○ Heavy rainfall and high tides can contribute to saturation   
EQ3: How do Coastal Erosion and sea level change 
alter the physical characteristics of coastline and 
increase risk? 
Eustatic and isostatic change 
● Isostatic change - rise or fall in land level 
● Eustatic - rise or fall in sea level. 
Eustatic fall in sea level  Eustatic rise in sea level 

● During an ice age most of the world’s water  ● At the end of the ice , melting ice sheets 
is stored in ice in ice sheets, glaciers etc.   return water to the sea causing the sea level 
● Consequently sea levels fall.  to rise globally 

Isostatic fall in sea level  Isostatic rise in sea level 

● As the ice is km thick, it is very heavy and is  ● Land can sink at the coast due to the 
able to push the land downwards, because  deposition of sediment accretion, especially 
the upper mantle underneath the crust is  in large river deltas where the weight of 
soft, viscous fluid  sediment leads to very slow crustal sag 
● Land near the ice sheets become depressed 
In the UK, Scotland was pushed down by the weight of ice, whilst southern England which was ice free, rose 
slightly. When ice sheets melt at the end of an ice age, the landstarts to rebound back upwards. The US is 
still showing ​isostatic readjustment​ with Scotland rising and Southern and Eastern England sinking. 
As tectonic plates move and collide, some continental shelves and areas of land are pushed upwards. Other 
areas may sink. Volcanic islands may form new coastlines such as island arcs, or hotspot locations. 
Marine regression - ​seabed is exposed as the sea level drops, producing an emergent coast 
Marine transgression - ​areas of land flood, producing a submergent coast 
Emergent Coastline - ​result of isostatic rebound. 
● Raised Beaches 
○ Former beach now above the high tideline.  
○ They have several wave cut platforms as sea levels change 
● Fossil Cliffs 
○ Near vertical slope formed by marine processes but now some 
distance inland 
Submergent Coastline - ​ caused by sea level rise or isostatic sinking 
● Rias  
○ Flooded river valley. 
○ During an ice age, some land areas were not covered with ice but 
had frozen grounds so rivers carved valleys with steeper sides than 
○ As the ice melted, sea level rose and drowned the mouth of these 
● Fjords 
○ Flooded glaciated valley 
○ Glaciers eroded U shaped valleys down to the coast of the time, and after 
the ice melted, sea level rose again and flooded into the valley over a 
shallow threshold, creating a deep water inlet with steep sides 
● Dalmatian 
○ Tectonic activity leads to folding of the ground, leaving anticlines and synclines. The synclines 
are flooded with long islands between them.  
Contemporary Sea Level rise 
● Sea levels are rising due to climate change. 
● The current rate of rise is about 2 mm a year 
● Low lying islands such as the Maldives may disappear, along with coastal ecosystems 
Sea level is difficult to predict for the following reasons 
● Thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm due to global warming ; the contribution depends on 
how global temperatures climb 
● The melting of mountain glaciers in the Alps, Himalayas etc will increase ocean water volume 
● There is uncertainty about when and how much ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctic will melt. 
● In some areas, sea level can change locally due to tectonic activity. 
● Successive major earthquakes have repeatedly lifted the shoreline by several meters in Wellington, 
New Zealand  
● During the 2004 Indian OCean tsunami, the coastline on Sumatra dropped by 1m! 
Coastal Recession is affected by physical and human factors 
● Coastal retreat may be influenced by natural factors such as the lithology, margarine process and 
subaerial processes. 
● Offshore dredging may increase coastal retreat. Dredging refers to the removal of sand for 
construction purposes to deepen entrances to ports or to supply sediments for beach nourishment 
● Deeper waves allow waves to maintain their circular motion and energy closer inshore and have a 
more destructive impact on the coast.  
○ Dredging can remove species and communities, increasing suspended sediment levels which 
can damage coral reefs 
● Starvation of sediment elsewhere may result due to the construction of gyrones that interrupt 
longshore drift and trap sediment, but leads to greater erosion elsewhere 
The Nile Delta Case Study 
● Multiple human activities can be found concentrated across the 
240km coast of the Nile Delta  
● There are holiday beach resorts, coastal defences, tourism, 
marine recreational, fisheries, land reclamation, agriculture and port 
● The coastline is experiencing retreat, with significant erosion on 
half of it. 
● Coastal flooding is becoming more frequent due to climate change. 
● As sea levels rise and offshore bars are eroded, 3.3% of the delta land area will be lost 
● If sea levels rise by 1 m, 2 million hectares of fertile land will be lost and at least 6 million people 
will be displaced 
● The construction of the Aswan High Dam, decreased the sediment volume as the sediment was 
trapped by the reservoir and dam. Consequently, erosion rates increased from 20 m per year to 
200m per year as the delta was starved of sediment 
Rates of recession are not constant and can be influenced by long and short term factors 
● Highest levels of retreat occurs with  
○ Weakly consolidated rocks 
○ Long wave fetch and large destructive waves.  
■ Coasts with long fetches are more likely to retreat faster than those with shorter 
■ At the holderness coastline, the dominant winds have a large fetch as they travel 
across the North Sea. Though rare, when they do occur erosion rates amy reach over 
8m a year 
■ In the Southwest, the winds come from the Atlantic 
○ Cliffs with structural weakness such as faults 
○ Weather Systems 
■ In winter, the temperate difference between the equator and the pole is at its 
greatest, which means the depressions are at their strongest, with lower air pressure 
and faster wind speeds, which creates largest destructive waves and the fastest 
recession rates 
○ Tides  
■ Extreme high tides known as spring tides occur when the Sun and the moon aligned 
so that their gravitational pull is at its strongest 
■ Tides are important because they determine where the waves will reach the shore. At 
high tides, waves are more likely to reach the backshore and erode the land faster. 
○ Mass movement and constant weathering processes 
■ Weathering weakens the rock found at the coast and allows erosion rates to increase. 
■ Mass movement moves sediment away at the base of coastal slopes where wave 
action and longshore drift can carry material away. This then exposes the base of 
coastal slopes resulting in cliffs retreating further. 
● There are variations are retreat level in the Holderness Coast, with an average annual erosion of 
1.25m a year - but with a wide range from 0 m to 6m. The geology is consistent (boulder clay) so the 
variations are due to: 
○ Coastal defences in locations have decreased erosion 
○ Starvation of sediment further south due to construction of groynes has interrupted longshore 
drift but led to to greater erosion just south of the defense 
○ Mass movement susceptibility in some locations  
○ Winter storms cause more erosion, especially when they coincide with a high spring tide 
○ Storms are more rare in summer months so erosion rates are lower 
Coastal flood risk 
Local factors 
● For most people at coastlines, the threat of flooding outweighs the treaty of erosion. Many people 
who live on low lying coasts are only a few meters above sea level 
● Ecosystems such as mangrove forests are important for reducing flood risk so their removal can 
increase risk significantly. 
○ Mangroves reduce the height of waves by 40%, reducing wave erosion and distance reached 
○ Stabilize sediment, trapping and adding to them so keeping the level of coastal land higher 
○ In Indonesia, coastline treated due to flooding when mangroves were removed 
● Sea level rise of 40 cm in the Bay of Bengal would submerge 11% of Bangladesh coastland, resulting 
in 7-10 million environmental refugees. 
● Population​: ​340000 
● Highest point in the country is only 2.3m above sea level 
● A sea level rise of 50cm by 2100 could mean the Maldives lose 77% of its land area become 
● Male, the capital, now has a 3m high sea wall 
Storm surges 
● Most short term coastal flooding is a result of storm surges 
● Storm surge is a short term change in sea level caused by low air pressure. This is because as air 
pressure drops, the weight of the air pressing down on the sea surface drops, so the sea surface rises. 
● This can be: 
○ A depression (low pressure water system in the mid latitudes) 
○ A tropical cyclone (low air pressure and strong winds) 
● A fall in air pressure of 1mb leads to a 1cm rise in local sea level rise. 
● Severe depression or cyclone can make coastal flooding worse as 
○ Strong winds push waves onshore so wave height increases 
○ High or spring tides occur at the same time of the storm, making the sea level even higher 
than normal 
○ If the shape of a coastline is confined and funneled into an area of shallow offshore water, 
then the situation worsens.  
● The 2013 North Sea storm surge was particularly hazardous because : 
○ There were winds of over 140 mph 
○ Gale force northerly winds drove the storm waves resulting in a storm surge of 5.8m 
○ Surge corresponded with high tide in many locations, making flooding even worse 
■ It resulted in: significant coastal flooding in Hull, 100000 home lost power in 
Scotland, 1400 properties were flooded 
● Storm surges in Bangladesh 
○ Tropical cyclones have lower air pressure and stronger winds resulting in larger storm surge 
○ Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable as: 
■ Much of the country is low lying 1-3m 
■ Incoming storm surges meet outflowing river discharge from the Ganges, meaning 
river flooding and coastal flooding combine 
■ Intense rainfall from tropical cyclones contribute to flooding 
■ Deforestation of coastal mangrove forests have removed vegetation that used to 
stabilise coastal swamps and dissipate wave energy 
■ Triangular shape of the Bay of Bengal concentrates a cyclone storm surge as it moves 
north, increasing its height with it makes landfall 
Climate Change and coastal flooding 
● Sea levels are rising due to global warming. 
● It is predicted that depression and cyclones will have more energy and be stronger, with faster wind 
and lower air pressure (though the evidence is weak) 
● It is important to state that depression, cyclones and storm surges have always happened and would 
continue to happen without global warming and rising sea levels. 
● Data on average wind speeds and wave heights is too poor to make accurate future forecast, 
compared to data on sea level. 
● Coasts are very complex systems which are affected by many factors.. Blaming coastal flooding on 
just global warming misunderstands the interplay of factors that affect the level of risk on coasts 
EQ4: How can coastlines be managed to meet the 
need of all players? 
Economic and Social losses of coastal recession 
● Economic costs include loss of property (homes, business farmland). 
○ The lose of new roads as a result of coastal erosion may be high if they have to be built on a 
new route - 100m length of new load is about £150,000-£250,000 
○ Destruction of a railway section of the South Devon Main line railway due to erosion cost £35 
million to repair and cost to businesses were put at £60 million 
● In the UK, the government does not provide compensation to people who lose their homes to coastal 
erosion. This is because it's not a risk, but a certainty 
○ However, the DEFRA provided East Riding COuncil with £1.2 million as one of 15 UK Coastal 
Change pathfinders projects.They money was spent assisting 43 homeowners with relocation 
and demolition expenses 
● Social costs include losing friends and family, having to relocate, lose of jobs, losses of amenity areas 
linked to tourism and recreation or of aesthetic values 
Impacts of coastal flooding at a developed and developing country 
  UK 2013 Storm  Bangladesh Floods 

Cause  ● Very deep depression  ● Funnel shape exacerbates 

named ​Cyclone Xavier  effect 
moved down from the  ● Most of country low lying 
North Sea  at 1-3m 
● Intense rainfall associated 
with tropical cyclones 
● Cyclone Sidr 
● Storm surfers meet 
overflowing rivers 
meaning river and coastal 
flooding combine 

Facts  ● 225 kmh;140mph in  ● 5m surge height 

Scotland  ● 260 km/h winds 
● Storm surge of 5.8m  ●  

Economic Costs  ● £1 billion in damages  ● $1.7 billion in economic 

● 2500 properties (homes  losses 
and businesses) were 

Social Costs  ● 15 deaths  ● 15000 deaths 

● Vast areas were flooded 
forcing millions from their 
homes and farms 
Climate change and environmental refugees 
● Most at risk are islands such as Maldives, Tuvalu and Kiribati which have particular risk factors: 
○ 80% of people in the Seychelles live and work at the coast 
○ MAny are fringed by coral reefs (which act as a natural coastal defence against erosion) but 
rising ocean temperatures due to global warming risk reef destruction  
○ They have small narrow economies based almost entirely on tourism or primary industry such 
as fishing, which can be easily disrupted 
● In New Zealand, 75 citizens of Kiribati, 75 citizens of Tuvalu and 250 citizens of Tonga have been 
granted residency status in the country each year 
● It is projected that if climate change results in sea levels rising by 50cm, then 11% of Bangladesh’s 
coastal land maybe flooded resulting in 7-10 million environmental refugees 
Name  How it works  Advantage  Disadvantage 

Wooden walls on a  ● Increases the  ● Expensive (£1000pm) 

beach at right angles to  recreational  ● May be an obstacle 
the coast to slow down  amenity value,  to some people 
longshore drift   assisting tourism  ● Considered ugly and 
Groynes  They made the beach  are not natural 
wider and higher so the  ● May increase erosion 
waves expend their  downdrift 
energy on it rather than 
on the backshore 

● Curved structures  ● Made of long  ● Very expensive 

parallel to the  lasting concrete   (£5000pm) 
backshore  ● Prevent high water  ● May be considered 
● Curvature aims  levels from moving  ugly, decreasing 
to reduce the  inland  amenity value 
Sea Wall  wave energy  ● Reduce the supply of 
sediment which may 
affect coastal areas 

● Boulders (usually  ● Long lasting and  ● Cost about £50 per 

granite) resistant  flexible  m​3 
to erosion and  ●   ● Can create access 
with a large  difficulties as they are 
Rip Rap  surface area to  dangerous to climb 
break up waves,  over 
dissipating their  ● Some weathering and 
energy  erosion may still occur 
at the backshore as 
seawater may still 
move through it 

● Sloped walls,  ● Longshore drift  ● Still expensive at 

often made of  process can still  £1500pm 
wood, placed  continue  ● Look unsightly 
parallel to the  ● Cheaper  ● May need constant 
backshore  alternative to sea  maintenance if the 
Revetments  ● Take the force of  walls  wood is abraded by 
breaking water,  powerful waves 
weakening their 
erosive strength 
and protecting 
the backshore 

● Rock boulders  ● Being offshore,  ● Expensive - £2000pm 

usually granite  they allow  ● May look unsightly at 
dropped and  longshore drift to  low tide 
aligned in short  still occur  ● Create increased 
lengths in shallow  ● Keeps the amenity  deposition in the 
Offshore  nearshore waters  value as they  landward side 
breakwaters  parallel to the  create sheltered 
shore  water for water 
● They absorb  sports as well as 
wave energy and  keeping a beach in 
dissipate the  place for 
waves before  recreational and 
they can erode  tourist use 
the foreshore or 
Soft Engineering Projects 
Name  How it works  Advantage  Disadvantage 

Beach  ● Replaces the lost  ● Looks natural and  ● Costs about £10 per 
nourishment  sediment that  more sightly  m​3 ​or £2 million per 
may have been  ● Produces an  km 
eroded or  amenity for  ● Does not last long, 
transported by  recreation  especially during 
longshore drift  winter so needs to be 
  ● A large beach  repeated frequently 
will absorb wave  ● Disrupts the natural 
energy and  sediment cell  
protect the 
backshore from 
Cliff regrading  ● The cliff is  ● Creates a natural  ● Costs about £1 million 
and ​drainage  artificially cut to  looking slope   ● Some land and 
a stable angle  ● Looks natural once  property may be lost 
● To reduce mass  completed as its  as the slope angle is 
movement, cliffs  not visible  changed 
  are drained with  ● Reduces mass  ● Difficult to implement 
gravels so that  movement  along the whole of 
the cliffs can    cliff without 
drain water out  disturbance  
quickly  ●  

Dune  ● Monitor the  ● Looks natural  ● May not be able to 

stabilisation  condition of  ● Effective barrier to  withstand the effects 
dunes and repair  higher sea levels  of a very powerful 
them with a  and tides  storm 
geofabric or  ● £10pm 
replanting of 
grasses (e.g. 
marram grass) 
together with the 
infilling of slacks. 
Sustainable coastal management 
Many coastal communities in the 21st century face: 
Rising global sea levels but uncertainty about the scale and timing of the rise 
Increased frequency of storms and the possibility of increased erosion and flooding 
● Sustainable coastal management refers to managing the wider coastal zone in terms of people and 
their economic livelihoods, social and cultural wellbeing and safety from coastal hazards, as well as 
minimising environmental impacts 
○ Manage natural resources (e.g. fish) to ensure long term productivity 
○ Manage flood and erosion risk, relocating to safe areas 
○ Educating communities to understand why change is needed and how to adapt 
● In the Maldives, there has been a potential for conflict to occur as coastal management has focused 
on some areas (such as Male the capital, whilst ignoring isolated islands) as well as traditional 
income sources (e.g. fishing) and resources (e.g. mangroves) are being overlooked in favour of 
tourism development 
○ The Japanese Government has funded mangrove nurseries on the Maldives so that damaged 
mangrove areas can be replanted 
Integrated Coastal Zone Management 
● The entire coastal zone is managed, not just the narrow zone where breaking waves cause erosion or 
flooding, including all ecosystems and human activity in the zone. 
● ICZM aims to bring together economic decision maker s(e..g tourism, fishing and ports) nad different 
government levels, emphasising the cooperation between all stakeholders so that everyone benefits 
● Aims to conserve the coastal ecosystem ensuring that future generations can use the coast 
● Aim to work with natural processes not against them 
Shoreline management plans 
● In 1993, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food set out a national strategy for flood and 
coastal defence in England and Wales based on the 11 natural sediment (literal) cells and subcells. 
● Coastlines are measure on these principles:  
○ Environmentally acceptable protection measures 
○ Economically viable coastal defences (considering land use, property values) 
○ Long term sustainability of natural coastal processes and ecosystems 
○ Maintenance of repair costs 
● There are four main policies 
○ Hold the line (maintaining existing defences and building new defences) 
○ Advance the line (intervention through the buildings of new defenses seaward side) 
○ Managed realignment (monitoring and managing natural processes in certain places where 
○ No active management (doing nothing with no investment or maintenance of existing 
● Property values can change depending on the the proposed action that comes through a Cost Benefit 
Analysis which compares the cost of coastal defenses against the value of the land to be protected. 
● Environmental Impact Assessment is a key part of the decision making process. 
● It identifies the positives and negatives of a development or scheme before it is implemented and 
feedback can be used to make improvements and modifications 
Case Study: Happisburgh, North Norfolk 
● Happisburgh failed to qualify for the governments grants for coastal defences.  
● Managed retreat was operated, much to the disappointment of locals, especially the residents of 
Beach Road who one by one, have lost their homes to the sea. 
● By 2105, the shoreline may recede by 200m, with property losses totally £6 million 
● House values are very low and people cannot afford to move elsewhere, having invested in buying 
a house that at the time was some distance away from the eroding cliff. 
● CCAG​ raised awareness of the coastal erosion issue both locally and nationally. 
● The campaign culminated in the launch of the Pathfinder pilot project in 2009. 
○ The pathfinder project meant a government allocation of £3 million for 6 settlements, 
including Happisburgh 
○ £1.4 million was set aside for purchase and leaseback of 11 houses on Beach Road. Owners 
were given half the value of their home, giving people a chance to relocate 
Case Study: Chittagong, Bangladesh 
● Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (2012) supported by the Asian Development Bank 
aimed to climate proof the area 
○ Road connects were improved (for farmers and markets)  
○ Raised embankments to 60 cm above normal flood levels, making them more resistant to 
coastal erosion 
○ Creating new market areas with sheds raised on platforms above thee expected 2050 sea 
○ Constructive 25 cyclone shelters that could withstand strong earthquakes and 260 km/hr 
○ Training in climate resilience and adaptation measures 
● The positive on the project included elevating poverty (up to 10%) by generating income 
opportunities, adapting to climate change 
● Negatives included removal of natural vegetation and relocation of 200 people.