Shoreline change patterns in sandy coasts. A case study in SW Spain
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DepartmentCiencias de la Tierra
SourceGeomorphology, Vol. 196, p. 252-266
Coastal changes on sandy shorelines are continuous and occur at diverse spatial and temporal scales. Gaining knowledge on beach change processes increases our capability tomanage risks, especially shoreline erosion, affecting the increasing population living in coastal areas. Processes and factors involved in medium- and short-term beach changes depend on the morphological and dynamic characteristics of the coast. In this work, the decadal behaviour of 58 sandy beaches along the 150 km long South-Atlantic coast of Spain, between the Guadalquivir rivermouth and the Strait of Gibraltar, is analysed in order to investigate the relationships between shoreline change patterns and the diverse morphological and dynamic factors controlling beach evolution in the area. For this purpose, georectified aerial photographs spanning the period 1956–2008 were compared in a GIS environment to calculate rates of shoreline change. Short-term evolution of beach profiles was also analysed in selected areas of interest. Results show that the study area exhibits a great variety of shoreline evolution trends, with erosion prevailing in the northern and central sectors and stability or even accretion in the southern sector. In general, sediment availability is the main factor determining coastal erodibility in the area, largely conditioned by the reduction in fluvial sediment supply caused by river basin regulation. Nearshore bathymetry also has a great significance, as it controls wave refraction-diffraction patterns and wave energy concentration on certain zones. Human interventions on the coast also represent a major influence on beach erodibility in the study area. Severe detrimental effects are caused at certain points by shore-normal engineering structures blocking longshore drift. Additionally extensive urban development in backbeach environments has a significant influence on the sediment budget at certain areas. On the basis of these results, a morphological and evolutionary classification of sandy beaches is proposed taking into account the way beach morphology influences erosion/accretion processes. Rectilinear beaches and enclosed beaches typically show dynamic equilibrium or even accretion trends, whereas reef-supported beaches tend to be dominated by erosion. Headland-bay beaches show complex evolution patterns greatly influenced by local conditions, such as specific shoaling processes or local winds. This classification is useful not only in forecasting general shoreline behaviour in the near future, but also in selecting the most appropriate type of intervention when managing retreating coasts.