|Shoreline of Puerto Rico|
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The character of shorelines results from the geological factors that set the stage and the physical processes that script the present story. To understand the development of coastal landforms, we must consider such things as tidal influences, wave climate, rock resistance, shoreline configuration and offshore bathymetry. The coast is a meeting place of energies in which rivers carry sediment to the sea where it is redistributed by marine processes. If the waves and currents cannot keep pace with the sediment supply, then deltas, bars, and other depositional features build the coast seaward. Where marine forces are stronger, the sediments are distributed across the shelf. This chapter attempts to integrate short- and long-term factors into an understanding of why our world's coastlines are the way they are today. Once an overall view has been presented, we discuss the individual environments that are part of today's coastlines (i.e., beaches, estuaries). And finally, we discuss the ever-changing coastal landscape, focusing first on natural changes and then on how man fits (or doesn't) into this as either a passive inhabitant or an active player trying to control his surroundings.
The world's coastlines are comprised of a variety of complex environments that are controlled by geologic setting, sediment supply and local physical processes. Dividing coastal environments for the sake of discussion is difficult because such features as beaches, dunes, tidal flats, and marshes are often part of a larger system that is best understood in its entirety rather than by examining its components. On the other hand, it is impractical to discuss all possible combinations. As a compromise, the individual components are described, within a discussion of the more important depositional systems that they can make up. It is important to remember that each section of coastline is part of a larger coastal mosaic, the behavior of which is the result of interactions. By necessity, an extensive literature is covered in very few pages. The reader wanting more details is referred especially to the book by Davis 1985 and later publications listed in the references.
Additional information can be found by going to the marine geology course.
these pages are copyright 2005 by Jack Morelock