Shoreface Controls on Barrier Evolution and Shoreline Change



Barriers exist in a continuum of forms, which are fundamentally governed by processes that shape the shoreface to determine the envelope available for sediment accommodation. This envelope is contained between the shoreface and underlying surface defined by the continental shelf and coastal plain (i.e., the substrate). Barrier form also depends on coastal change that is constrained, following reasonably well-established principles, by the volume and type of sediment supply (or loss) and rates of change in sea level that modify the shoreface and associated accommodation potential. While the shoreface is therefore significant to barrier form and behavior, processes that shape the shoreface itself remain poorly understood. In particular, systematic long-term evolution of the shoreface, which is evident in geological data, indicates not only a time-varying morphology, but also a lagged response to environmental change. Such shoreface evolution has implications for barrier evolution (and vice versa). In this chapter, we review (1) relations between shoreface and barrier form, (2) limits to knowledge on shoreface behavior and insights from depositional records from which systematic changes over time can be inferred, and (3) exploratory experiments on the morphodynamic timescale of shoreface change. The third part of the review derives from results of experimental modeling of combined shoreface and barrier evolution constrained by geologic data. The numerical experiments demonstrate that, on intermediate timescales (decades to centuries) that are most relevant to coastal management and planning, adjustments are dominated by sediment exchanges between the beach and shallower portions of the shoreface in response to rapid changes in boundary conditions, especially sea level. Significant morphodynamic hysteresis can be expected from the partial adjustment of lower shoreface geometry during sea-level change, resulting in ongoing barrier evolution and shoreline migration after the stabilization of boundary conditions.


Climate change Coastal barrier Coastal evolution Encroachment Lagged response Morphodynamic hysteresis Morphodynamic model Morphologic inheritance Morphologic-response timescale Prograded barrier Sea-level rise Sediment transport Sediment-accommodation Shoreface dynamics Shoreface geometry 



Laura Moore and Brad Murray provided valuable comments on the manuscript, although the authors remain responsible for any shortcomings.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geosciences, Faculty of ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Geosciences, Faculty of ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Coastal and Marine ScienceOffice of Environment and HeritageSydneyAustralia

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