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Integrating GIS and high resolution orthophoto images for the development of a geomorphic shoreline classification and risk assessment—a case study of cliff/bluff erosion along the Bulgarian coast


This paper demonstrates the effectiveness of integrating GIS and modern spatial data for the development of a detailed geomorphic classification of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. This classification is important for the precise measurement of various natural and technogenous (engineered) coastline types and serves as a basis for identification of the areas with high exposure to different coastal hazards. To illustrate potential uses of this simple methodology, a map of the potential coastal erosion/cliff retreat hazard for the Bulgarian coast was produced from this GIS database. Several types of data were used: high resolution orthophoto, topographical maps in 1:5,000 scale and geological maps. Geomorphic classification utilized both geomorphological and engineering criteria. A total of 867 segments were delineated along the coast. Four hundred sixty five were classified as natural landforms (cliffs, beaches, river mouths) with a total length of 362,62 km and 402 were indicated as technogenous segments (port and coast-protection structures, artificial beaches) with a total length of 70 km. Based on the geologic materials present at each segment and cliff height, the cliffed portions of the Bulgarian coast were classified for expected erosion rates, and therefore, hazard vulnerability: low hazard (volcanic type cliff); moderate hazard (limestone type cliff) and high hazard (loess and clayey types cliff). This “predictive model” was then compared to a previously published field study of coastal erosion rates to validate the model. As a result, a new high quality, but qualitative data for Bulgarian coastal bluff/cliff erosion were obtained, incorporated and analyzed in GIS.

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The present study has been supported by National Science Fund – Ministry of Education, Youth and Science, Republic of Bulgaria, Contract No: DNTS 02/11 from 29.09.2010 in the frame of a Joint Research Project between Bulgaria and Romania (2010–2012). The Ministry of Agriculture and Food (Republic of Bulgaria) is deeply acknowledged for providing the modern orthophoto and satellite image data needed and useful also for implementation of the project activities.

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Correspondence to Margarita Stancheva.

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Stanchev, H., Young, R. & Stancheva, M. Integrating GIS and high resolution orthophoto images for the development of a geomorphic shoreline classification and risk assessment—a case study of cliff/bluff erosion along the Bulgarian coast. J Coast Conserv 17, 719–728 (2013).

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