The formation of beaches on shore platforms in microtidal environments

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Abstract

Beaches are common features of many rocky shorelines and can be considered to be constrained by the underlying geology. In mesotidal to macrotidal areas the slope of the substrate and sediment supply are the primary factors in constraining the size and development of beaches on shore platforms. In microtidal settings it is not known if these factors are wholly responsible for determining the presence of beaches on shore platforms, nor the contribution of other factors such as hydrodynamics. The microtidal coast of Victoria, Australia, is surveyed in this study in order to quantify the morphological boundary conditions that constrain beach development on semi-horizontal shore platforms. An ample sediment supply indicates that the underlying geology is controlling the presence and absence of beaches. Where beaches occur they always overlie a rock ramp which is the steepest part of the platform. The two most important morphological constraints were platform width and height both of which significantly correlated with beach volume. An elevational threshold exists at just over +1.0 m where beaches cannot accumulate. Below this threshold, platform width appears to be the principle constraining factor in beach accumulation. An evolutionary model is inferred which suggests that dissipation of wave energy associated with platform widening plays an important role in allowing beaches to accumulate. The model suggests beaches on platforms will be particularly sensitive to sea level rise. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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