What factors influence coastal environments?

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What factors influence coastal environments?

Coastal environments are moulded by various factors, including both physical and human processes, leading to diverse coastal landscapes.

How does geology influence coastal environments?

The types of rocks present, or the geology, greatly influence these landscapes. For instance, hard rocks like limestone create rugged landscapes, while softer rocks like sand and gravel result in low, flat landscapes.

How does geological structure influence coastal environments?

The geological structure also plays a role. Coastlines where geological strata run parallel to the shoreline, known as accordant or Pacific-type coastlines, can be seen in places like the Californian coastline, USA. In contrast, discordant or Atlantic-type coastlines, where the geological strata are perpendicular to the shoreline, exist along the southwest coast of Ireland.

How do coastal processes influence coastal environments?

The type of processes – whether erosional or depositional – also shapes these landscapes. Areas with high erosion rates, like the east coast of England, feature many rapidly retreating cliffs. In contrast, regions of rapid deposition, like the Netherlands, are characterised by sand dunes and coastal flats.

How does sea level change influence coastal environments?

Interactions between sea-level changes and erosional or depositional processes result in either advancing coasts (those expanding due to deposition and/or relative sea-level fall) or retreating coasts (eroding and/or submerged due to relative sea-level rise). Lowering sea levels result in relict cliffs and raised beaches while rising sea levels are associated with fjords and rias (submerged river valleys). Isostatic changes refer to local land-level alterations relative to the sea, whereas eustatic changes reflect global sea-level shifts.

How do human activities influence coastal environments?

Human activities, including settlement, industry, recreation, tourism, energy development, and transport, increasingly influence these coastal zones.

How does vegetation/ecosystem type influence coastal environments?

Lastly, the type of vegetation or ecosystem present, such as mangroves, coral reefs, sand dunes, salt marshes, and rocky shores, contributes to the diversity of coastlines. They impact the microclimate and weathering processes and indirectly influence human activities.


  • Rock types or geology dictate whether coastal landscapes are rugged or flat.

  • Geological structures, accordant or discordant, affect the direction and form of coastlines.

  • Erosion and deposition processes shape various coastal features like cliffs and sand dunes.

  • Sea-level changes, whether local (isostatic) or global (eustatic), influence coast advancement or retreat.

  • Human activities and ecosystem types significantly impact coastal microclimates, weathering, and human operations.

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