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Coastal processes and

1. Terms
2. Wave actions
3. Landforms
4. Coral reefs
5. Sediment cells
6. Storm & swell profiles.
7. Coastal management.
1. Waves is open water are called oscillatory waves.

2. The crest and the trough are respectively the highest and lowest points of a wave.

3. Wave height is the distance between the crest and the trough

4. Wave length (L) is the distance between two successive crests.

It can be determined by the formula:
L = 1.56 T2

5. Wave period (T) is the time taken for a wave to travel through one wave length.

6. Wave frequency is the number of waves per minute.

7. Wave fetch is the amount of open water over which a wave has passed.

8. Wave velocity (C ) is the speed of movement of a crest in a given period of time.

Wave action.
1. Explain how sea wave generated & describe
Destructive and constructive waves.
2. Describe the processes of marine erosion.
Using examples, explain how marine erosion
can affect cliff coastlines.
3. Describe the processes of marine erosion
and explain how these processes can influence
the formation of a wave-cut platform.
4. Explain how waves can transport and deposit
Sediment in coastal areas.
Sea waves generated & types of waves.

• Sea wave is generated by the drag effect of wind producing orbiting

water particles. Height, length and velocity are all dependent upon wind
speed, fetch and depth of water.

Constructive wave:
Constructive waves are low energy waves with a stronger swash than
backwash. Where there are less than 8 waves breaking each minute
they tend to be constructive waves. Constructive waves tend
to deposit material and build up a beach.

Destructive waves:
By contrast, destructive waves have much higher energy. They are
much larger in height. They have a weak swash but a strong
and they therefore erode the beach by pulling sand and shingle (beach
materials) down the beach as water returns to the sea.

* Draw diagrams.
Constructive & destructive waves.
Constructive waves

Destructive waves
Marine erosion and wave-cut platform.

2. Marine erosion processes include hydraulic, quarrying (cavitation),

corrosion and solution.
• Hydraulic action: the constant force of waves crashing on the shore
damages it.
• Abrasion: waves bring with them bits of rock and sand. These help
to grind down cliffs.
• Attrition: waves cause rocks and pebbles on the shore to smash into
each other and break down.
• Solution/corrosion : acids contained in sea water will slowly dissolve
certain types of rock.

• examples, explain how marine erosion can affect cliff coastlines.

(Formation of wave-cut platform e.g. Durdle Door (arch), Stair Hole,
Lulworth Cove)
1. Destructive waves at an exposed coast erode a steep coastal slope
through processes like hydraulic action and abrasion.

2. The waves erode along lines of weakness in the rock face to form a

3. Continued erosion enlarges the notch and causes its roof to

collapse, and a cliff is formed.

4. Further undercutting at the base of the cliff results in an overhanging

cliff which eventually collapses

5. As the steep cliff retreats landwards, a flat terrace at the foot of the
cliff is exposed to form a wave-cut platform.

Wave-cut platform
Explanation on how waves transport and
deposit sediment in coastal areas
Using diagrams, explain formation of spits & coastal salt
marshes. Describe the effects of human activities can have
upon these landforms.

Describe the main features of spit and salt marshes and

explain formation.

Explain why spits and salt marshes are subject to

change and are considered fragile environments.
Suggest ways in which they can be protected.
With the help of diagrams, describe the features of 3
different types of coastal depositional landform and
explain the formation of each.
Spits & salt marshes.

• A spit is a bank of sand or shingle protruding from the coast into the
sea, or partially across a river estuary.
• It results from the movement of sediment along the coast by the
process of longshore drift.
• The tip of the spit is curved by powerful wave action or wave
refraction to form a lateral at A.
• Over time, the spit extends further, often with the development of
several laterals. Sediment is deposited in the shelter of the spit and
a saltmarsh develops.
• In places, spits can grow to extend right across an estuary joining
two headlands to form a bay bar.
• Where a spit links the mainland to an island, it is known as a
Diagrams of spit and salt marshes.
Features of spits and salt marshes.
1. Spit is an accumulation of sand and shingle that is attached to a

2. Behind the spit are accumulations of silt and mud that are anchored
by vegetation to produce marsh and creek areas.

3. The laterals represent periods of growth of the spit are formed from
beach sediment transported by longshore drift which accumulates
where the coastline changes direction or where drift is held up by a
river mouth or estuary.

4. Accumulations of mud occur in the shelter of the spit and is

colonised by halophytes.
Fragile environments (spits and salt marshes) &
ways in which they can be protected.
• Spit and salt marshes are subject to change and are considered
fragile environments because Spits can change shape due to both
growth (laterals) or erosion.

• Storms or removal of sediment supplies can have severe impacts

such that these features can be considered fragile. Salt marshes are
equally responsive if the shelter of the spit is removed or pollution
affects the estuarine or river silts and mud.

• Development or changes of sea level can also have severe


• Protection can be afforded by trapping sediment (groynes) or

guaranteeing continuous sediment supplies. * Case study:
Breaching of spit during storm (Chesil Beach) & Dredging (Poole
Coastal depositional landform and
Coastal depositional landforms: Spits, bars, dunes and salt marshes and beaches

Beaches Beaches are the main feature of deposition found at the coast,
these consist of all the material (sand, shingle etc.) that has built up between
the high and low tide mark. There are number of different sources of beach material
-the main source being rivers, where fine muds and gravels are deposited
-at the river mouth. Other sources of beach material include longshore drift
(bringing material from elsewhere along the coast); constructive waves
(bringing material up the beach from the sea) and from cliff erosion.
As constructive waves build up beaches, they often form ridges in the beach
known as berms. The berm highest up the beach represents the extent
to which the water has reached during high tide.
These form in the same way as a spit initially but bars are created
where a spit grows across a bay, joining two headlands. Behind the
bar, a lagoon is created, where water has been trapped and the lagoon
may gradually be infilled as a salt marsh develops due to it being a low
energy zone, which encourages deposition.

Example of a Bar: Slapton Sands - Devon.


Tombolos are formed where a spit continues to grow outwards

joining land to an offshore island.

Example of a Tombolo: - Chesil Beach - which joins the South

Dorset coast to the Isle of Portland.
Look at diagram below,
1. (a) Explain how each cliff profile has been affected by the nature
of rock structure.
(b) Explain the main factors that can affect the form of cliff profiles.
Cliff profile affected by nature of
Factors that affect cliff profile.
• Cliff profiles owe their form to the geology (Lithology and
structure), sub-aerial processes and wave energy along
a given stretch of coastline. It takes thousands of years
for the cliffs profile to form from complex processes,
there are many complicated processes taking place on
coasts that affect the profile of a cliff.
• Wave action causes three erosional processes,
abrasion, hydraulic action and corrosion. These
processes are most effective when high energy waves,
associated with storm conditions strike coast profiles
made of less resistant rocks. Concentrated wave action
on cliff leads to undercutting. The three types of wave
erosion processes play an important part in forming cliff
Factors that affect sea cliff profiles.

(b) The factors that can affect sea cliff profiles are wave
action (dependent upon fetch etc.), marine erosion
processes, geology and sub-aerial weathering and erosion.
These combinations can be shown to produce distinctive
profiles and answers should demonstrate some of these
and not merely generalise the cliff forms (‘any cliff’).
Clearly there is a lot of material available so we will expect
some selectivity. Even so there should be some
representation in each of the factor areas as well as some
idea of impact.
Coral reef
1(a) With the aid of diagrams, describe the nature
of fringing reefs, barrier and atolls.
(b) Give a brief explanation of the theories that
have been advanced for their formation.
(c) How can changes in sea level affect the
formation and continued existence of coral
reefs and atolls?
(d) What are the condition required for coral reef
Fringing, Barrier and Atoll.
• Good annotated diagrams will probably be the key here
and could receive
• the bulk of the marks. If well done could receive 3 marks
each. Fringing
• reef should show (be described as) a coral reef that is
attached to a shore
• either as a continuous wave washed erosion platform or
separated by a
• shallow lagoon. Barrier reefs are of great thickness (e.g.
Queensland) and
• are separated from coast by a wide and deep lagoon or
strait. Atolls are
• ring-shaped islands surrounding a central lagoon.
Theories of formation
Changes in sea level affect the formation and continued
existence of coral reefs and atolls

Coral is sensitive to heat and light it is also sensitive to changes in sea level as
reefs cannot survive long periods of sub-aerial exposure.

Falls in sea level can lead to the death of coral and to the emergence
of the reef above high water forming low lying land such as keys.

The islands become colonized by vegetation. To a certain

extent reefs can contend with sea level rise leading to the growth of thick reefs
(Darwins model).

However rapid rise consequent upon global warming may result in

inundation and destruction.
Condition for coral reef formation
As a marine organism coral requires:
Temperatures generally above 20C with optimum 25–30 C;

Sufficient light (depth) for photosynthesis to occur;

Salinity within range 27–40 (i.e. not extreme).

Suitable surface to develop upon (firm base);

Limited amount of turbulence for oxygen and nutrient supply;

Lack of sediment (clear water);

Not too great a tidal range or large changes in sea level;

Gentle Currents;

food supply (zooplankton).

Sediment cells.

1. Give a reasoned explanation of the model. Indicating nature of the sources

and sinks.

2. Describe the nature of a coastal sediment cell. How do these cells

contribute to the formation of coastal landforms?
Sediment cell and landforms.
• A coastal sediment cell is a system by which sediments
are sourced, transported and deposited within a part of a
coast and offshore area.

• They appear as a coastal system, thus sediments are

derived from estuaries and coastal erosion, transported by
Such features as longshore drift and deposited in the form
of beaches, bars, spits etc.

• The nature of the landform thus depends upon the

nature of the cell, as well as the configuration of the coast.

Describe and explain the features shown below and account for the
Differences between the storm and swell profiles.
Storm and swell profile.
Coastal management

Explain how human activities have affected the physical environment

in a coastal area or coastal areas you have studied.

Explain the problems of the sustainable management of a stretch or

stretches of coastline you have studied.
Problems of coastal management
and evaluate the solution
• Groynes are low walls built out into the sea, usually at right angles to the
coastline. They help break the power of the incoming waves and slow down
the process of longshore drift.
• Steel and rock walls. Steel walls are sunk vertically into the beach to stop
the sand moving. Rock walls stop waves removing sands and gravel from
the beach.
• Embankments. These are high walls that are situated where a beach meets
the land or cliff. They are usually made of concrete or stone and bounce
back storm waves.
• Beach slopes are made shallower to keep the sand and shingle stable.
• Dumping sand and shingle offshore to reduce the power and height of the
incoming waves.
• Building a barrier across an estuary of a river to reduce the risk of flooding
(for example the Thames Barrier).
• Setting up a storm tide early warning system which provides information
about extra high tides.
• Preventing building on high flood risk areas. This would minimise the loss of
life and damage to property.
Human activities affecting coastal
Sustainable management of
• Sustainable management will be defined along the lines of
encouraging Improvement of coasts but within the capacity of the
supporting physical systems i.e. minimising environmental

• In coastal terms this can mean the preservation both of the coastal
environment and its exploitation. Thus protection schemes that have
severe knock on effects are of limited usefulness.

• Similarly ado nothing approach may also have repercussions for the
long term coastal environment (loss of fishing, tourism landforms
etc). These aspects can be illustrated by reference to a particular
case study or more disparate examples.
* Examples: