The Living World
21 Topics | 21 Quizzes

An Overview of Coastal Processes

The coast is best described as a dynamic zone where the land meets the sea. It is in a constant state of change, shaped by forces both onshore and offshore.

Onshore processes are called terrestrial processes and refer to processes that come from the land, rather than the sea or air. Offshore processes are called marine processes, which refer to processes coming from the sea. This usually means the action of waves themselves, as they are the main force behind marine processes.

This page provides a breakdown of the marine and terrestrial processes that help shape the world’s coastlines. Clicking on the hyperlinks in each definition takes you to a new page that provides a full explanation.

Marine Processes

  • Waves are created by the wind blowing over the sea. Waves gather energy depending on the strength of the wind, the fetch and the duration of time the wind has been blowing. The waves can have different effects on the coastline, coming in two different forms: constructive and destructive.
  • Erosion is the wearing away of rock along the coastline, mainly caused by destructive waves. It is carried out in four separate ways: hydraulic actionabrasionattrition and solution.
  • Transportation is the movement of beach material, which can gradually alter the landscape of coastal areas. This is performed by solutionsuspensionsaltation and traction.
  • Deposition is the process of constructive waves dropping material onto the coast after it loses energy.

Terrestrial Processes

  • Weathering is the process of rock breakdown through prolonged exposure to the atmosphere. This process can dramatically alter the coastline through freeze-thaw, and biological and chemical weathering. The key difference between weathering and erosion is that weathering breaks down rock in situ, without moving the material elsewhere.
  • Mass Movement is the downhill movement of material that moves due to gravity. This process can deposit large amounts of sediment onto the coastline, transforming the function of an area.

Coastal Processes Cheat Sheet

Here is a ‘cheat sheet’ providing an overview of all the coastal processes covered on our site.

You’ve used 10 of your 10 free revision notes for the month

Sign up to get unlimited access to revision notes, quizzes, audio lessons and more

Sign up