The complexity of studying coasts: From forms and processes to management




Coastal environments, morphodynamic processes, natural hazards, integrated coastal zone management


Coastal environments are characterized by their high dynamism, related to the interaction between marine agents (winds, waves, currents, sea level changes) and continental forms and processes. The present article summarizes the main morphodynamic characteristics of coasts and the resulting environments. Different oscillations of the sea level are considered, depending on their amplitude and frequency: rapid eustatic fluctuations, energetic tsunamis, storm waves and surges, tides and good weather wind waves. Coastal environments are classified in low, sedimentary coasts, including beaches, dunes, barrier islands, lagoons, salt marshes and river mouths, and high, rocky coasts. Management of coastal zones needs a deep knowledge of all the processes involved at the littoral, especially at the local scale, since coastal processes vary rapidly alongshore. At present the integrated coastal management intends to involve different socioeconomic sectors interested in the occupation and use of coasts. Coastal management must include the adaptation of human activities to the natural processes and associated coastal hazards and the protection of coastal values, both of natural and historical-cultural character. Public administrations at different levels should consider the knowledge of the coastal processes at different scales and their potential interaction with human activities in order to design laws and regulations accordingly.


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Author Biography

Francisco Javier Gracia Prieto, University of Cádiz

Department of Earth Sciences

Full professor


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How to Cite

Gracia Prieto FJ. The complexity of studying coasts: From forms and processes to management. CIG [Internet]. 2022 Jul. 14 [cited 2023 Mar. 25];48(2):219-55. Available from: