Coastal environments are those bordering the shoreline on both the seaward and landward sides, which is the geometric place where land, sea, and atmosphere meet and therefore encompasses a variety of subenvironments.
Shorelines extend along the five continents for approximately 440 million km, crossing the Equator, Tropics, and Arctic circles, but this only partially explains the variety of coastal environments. Postglacial sea level rise (approx. 120 m) submerged many continental landforms, with headlands, bays, and beaches, and then migrated landwards and either welded to the continent or formed barrier islands.
Further, rivers have long fed the coast with sediments produced by erosion within their watershed forming coastal plains and deltas; at the land/water interface beaches, accumulations of loose material varying in grain size from mud to boulders are being continuously reshaped by waves, winds, and subject to tides.
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