Coasts as Natural Systems

In this module, we are going to tackle coastal systems by looking at the various processes that occur in them. Additionally, there are a lot of related topics regarding coasts as a part of natural systems that we can study. This is what we will cover in this module:

  • The definition of coastal system and how the process works.
  • The different outputs that are involved in the system.
  • The different parts that compose a coast and their corresponding descriptions (essential for understanding the proper function of the coasts).
  • The factors that are affecting the coasts.
  • Tidal waves’ importance to our coasts and why they play an important role in our environment.

So what are coasts?

Coasts are the slender part of the ground located between land and a body of water. A coast has several parts with different, crucial functions.
Coasts include all the parts below the surface of the water from up to 320 kilometres offshore to 60 kilometres inshore. It is an active system with inputs and processes from the ground, water, and the sky


The parts of the coast are the following:

  • Backshore – this part is situated amid the peak where the highest point of water strikes and the one in front of the land that opposes the sea.
  • Foreshore – a division amid the uppermost peak and the lowermost peak; it is the most crucial part for aquatic activity.
  • Inshore – this part is between the rock bottom peak and the place where the waves cease to have any contact with the surrounding land.,
  • Offshore – a part removed from the area where the waves fade to cause a collision on the seabed and in which motion is bounded by the buildup of sand particles.

What Affects Our Coasts?

There are numerous aspects that affect the physical attributes, activities, and behaviours of the coasts. Here are the various factors that affect it:

  • The alteration in a coast’s shapes can be caused by the docking of water vessels.
  • This activity can also lead to the devastation of the coral reefs and can compromise the structure of the coasts because its destruction can eventually cause erosion if ignored.
  • Heightened levels of seawater can also change the shape of the coastline significantly.
  • Settling on the coastlines can put the shape and function of a coastline in imminent danger.
  • Increased populations on coastlines puts a lot of stress on its surface because of the higher foot traffic, which can also lead to a change in shape.
  • Several weather conditions can also affect coasts, such as strong gusts and intense rainfall, the latter of which can make the surface softer and more prone to erosion.
  • High tides due to the positioning of the moon and sun can also put the shape of the coasts at risk because it can soften the surface of the coasts.

What is the System Composed of?

The system is composed of processes that have inputs and outputs. It is an organized part of the environment. The processes include the following:

  • Energy is shown in the type of wave density, currents of wind, and tidal height. Some examples include:
    • Kind of rocks
    • Structure of rocks
    • Tectonic
    • Climate
    • Weather
    • Housing
  • Particles of sand that came from another coastline that experienced erosion. Some examples of processes that happen in the system are:
    • Weathering
    • Deposition
    • Attrition
    • Abrasion
  • Erosion and the carrying in and out of sediments all happen on coasts along with various natural activities and Aeolian transfers.
  • Basic examples of coastal outputs are forms of land, sand elements, the positioning of the coastline, and its shape.

What are Tides?

Tides are the motion on the facade of the ocean and are an important factor in the rising and lowering of the sea levels. They are affected by solar and lunar gravitational pull. The following are the types of tides:

  • Spring tide – can vary from a towering, high tide to a severe low tide. This category of tide produces a wide range of tides:
    • Low spring tide – occurs immediately after a new moon.
    • High spring tide – occurs subsequent to a full moon.
  • Neap tide – occurs when there is a right angle created by the sun and moon’s relation to Earth.
Low tide

There are various aspects that manipulate tides like the measurement and form of the ocean basin. Other factors include the following:

  • The shoreline’s characteristics.
  • The Coriolis Effect – a force related to an object’s motion within a frame of reference.

Tides are the largest in bodies of water that are molded like a funnel. It has been found that water in the Northern Hemisphere is redirected to the right and during typhoons or any weather disturbance, water levels rise by 10 centimetres.

Tidal range is also a factor on the processes of the coasts because it has the ability to manipulate erosion and deposition. It furthermore affects the velocity of the coastal systems. It has separately been found that weathering and biological factors have a direct effect on the time span of tides.

To conclude, there are several factors and systems that affect coastal systems. All of them have their particular function and play a major role in each process.

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