Encyclopedia of Coastal Science

2019 Edition
| Editors: Charles W. Finkl, Christopher Makowski

Mass Wasting

  • Alan S. TrenhaileEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-93806-6_210

Mass wasting, the movement of material downslope by gravity, occurs as slopes evolve toward stable, equilibrium forms. Active coastal slopes are often in short rather than long-term stability, because of wave undercutting, oversteepening, and the removal of basal debris. For convenience, a distinction is made in this discussion between the types of mass wasting that occur on rock and cohesive clay coasts. Some slope movements occur on both types of coast, however, and many cliffs consist of variable combinations of rock and clay. Nevertheless, translational slides and the free fall of material from steep slopes tend to be typical of rock coasts, whereas deep rotational slumps and shallower slides and flows of wet material are more common on cohesive clay coasts (Trenhaile 1987, 1997; Sunamura 1992; Viles and Spencer 1995).

Rock Coasts

Fresh rock surfaces and the presence of debris at the foot of cliffs testify to the importance of rock falls on many coasts. Although they occur more...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Allison RJ, Kimber OG (1998) Modelling failure mechanisms to explain rock slope change along the Isle of Purbeck Coast, UK. Earth Surf Process Landf 23:731–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bromhead EN (1979) Factors affecting the transition between the various types of mass movement in coastal cliffs consisting largely of over-consolidated clay with special reference to southern England. Q J Eng Geol 12:291–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brunsden D (1984) Mudslides. In: Brunsden D, Prior DB (eds) Slope instability. Wiley, Chichester, pp 363–418Google Scholar
  4. Davies P, Williams AT (1986) Cave development in lower Lias coastal cliffs, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Wales, UK. In: Sigbjarnarson G (ed) Iceland coastal and river symposium proceedings. National Energy Authority, Reykjavik, pp 75–92Google Scholar
  5. Davies P, Williams AT, Bomboe P (1998) Numerical analysis of coastal cliff failure along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, UK. Earth Surf Process Landf 23:1123–1134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Griggs GB, Trenhaile AS (1994) Coastal cliffs and platforms. In: Carter RWG, Woodroffe CD (eds) Coastal evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 425–450Google Scholar
  7. Hutchinson JN (1973) The response of London clay cliffs to differing rates of toe erosion. Geol Appl Idrogeol 8:211–239Google Scholar
  8. Jones DG, Williams AT (1991) statistical analysis of factors influencing cliff erosion along a section of the west Wales Coast, UK. Earth Surf Process Landf 16:95–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Muir-Wood AM (1971) Engineering aspects of coastal landslides. Proc Inst Civ Eng 50:257–276Google Scholar
  10. Quigley RM, Gelinas PJ, Bou WT, Packer RW (1977) Cyclic erosion-instability relationships: Lake Erie north shore bluffs. Can Geotech J 14:310–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Shih S-M, Komar PD (1994) Sediments, beach morphology and sea cliff erosion within an Oregon Coast littoral cell. J Coast Res 10:144–157Google Scholar
  12. Sunamura T (1992) Geomorphology of rocky coasts. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  13. Terzaghi K (1962) Stability of steep slopes on hard unweathered rock. Géotechnique 12:251–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Trenhaile AS (1987) The geomorphology of rock coasts. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. Trenhaile AS (1997) Coastal dynamics and landforms. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Viles H, Spencer T (1995) Coastal problems. Edward Arnold, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography DepartmentUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada