Coastal landscapes

1.1 How can costal landscaoes be viewed as systems?

Key idea - Coastal landscapes can be viewed as systems

  • The development of a costal landscape over time can be viewed within a systems framework.
  • A system is a set of interrelated objects comprising components (stores) and processes (links) that are connected together to form a working unit or unified whole.
  • Coastal landscape systems store and transfer energy and material on time scales that can vary from a few days to milennia.
  • The energy available to a coastal landscape system may be kinetic, potential or thermal. It is this energy that enables work to be carried out by the natural, geomorphic processes that shape the landscape.
  • The material found in a coastal landscape system is predominantly the sediment found on beaches, in estuaries and in the relatively shallow waters of the nearshore zone.

The components of open systems

  • Coastal landscape systems are recognised as being open systems (Figue 1.1, pg 2).
  • This means that energy and matter can be transferred from neighouring systems as an input.
  • It can also be transferred to neighbouring systems as an output.
  • A good example of this is the input of fluvial sediment from a river, as it deposits its load at the mouth when available energy decreases.

In system terms: a coastal landscape has:

  • Inputs - including kinetic energy from wind and waves, thermal energy from the…


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