[BGS MAREMAP Work Stream] Coastal Dynamics.

Start Date:
April 2013
End Date:


The coastline is a product of the interaction between underlying geology and dynamic terrestrial and marine processes. It is also a zone of dense human activity which requires pro-active management and protection from natural and artificial changes. Recent years have also shown a rapid increase in the amount and quality of observational data collected in this coastal zone, accompanied by increasing availability of sophisticated digital interpretation tools. The challenge is to define the scientific priorities which can translate all of this in to a more effective understanding of the impacts of geological processes in the coastal zone.

The headline challenges for the BGS Coastal Dynamics work stream related to this are:

  • To define methodologies for mapping and characterisation of the baseline geology (and related geomorphology) in the coastal zone, including, onshore to offshore join-up (through the 'white ribbon') of bedrock, Quaternary and 'currently active' deposits (including landslide, beach and sea-bed deposits)
  • To use the results from this improved mapping methodology to better understand the dynamic littoral and hydraulic processes affecting and shaping the coastline, on both shorter and longer timescales
  • To combine the above to understand better how coastal geology and processes impact on human activities, and vice versa, such as, in coastal development, management and defence

In broad terms, the Coastal Dynamics work strand of the BGS MAREMAP Project is about linking together coastal geology, dynamic natural processes and anthropogenic management. To achieve a successful outcome, this work strand will need to link strongly to the other BGS MAREMAP strands (mapping & modelling, habitat mapping, Quaternary, human impacts/geohazards, mapping technology and KE), to other BGS science programmes, and also to the work of the many collaborative organisations in the coastal zone.

The work stream is funded by BGS national capability and aims to build on previous work across BGS in coastal geoscience, and to link current work activities across BGS and MAREMAP partners associated with the coastal zone (e.g. engineering geology, climate/environmental change modelling, coastal monitoring & management, onshore and offshore geological and habitat mapping). The Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO), a MAREMAP associate, has been the key partner organisation thus far. Through them, it is hoped that links can expand to local authorities and other partners involved in the wider Coastal Monitoring programme (coordinated by CCO).

This project will aim to develop improved methodologies for:

  • Joining up onshore and offshore geological mapping (and thus products derived from them e.g. hazard maps)
  • Characterisation of coastal landslide hazards (in conjunction with BGS engineering programme and others); including linking the collection of landslide data through the Regional Monitoring Programme with the BGS National Landslide Database
  • Geological mapping of modern/active sediments in the coastal zone e.g. mass movement, saltmarsh, estuarine and beach sediments
  • 3D geological mapping e.g. (using BGS GeoVisionary) and derived geological modelling (3D and 4D) to better support coastal monitoring and management, including habitats and hazards

The project will also act as a test bed for a variety of research & technology opportunities e.g:

  • 3D surveying using BGS GeoVisionary and SIGMA, linked to ArcGIS
  • 3D and 4D modelling of coastal geological systems and processes
  • Mathematical modelling of coastal dynamics (including linking to BGS Climate Change programme)
  • Remote sensing for rapid geological surveying in coastal zone e.g. LIDAR, Radar, Sonar
  • Future potential for use of sensor networks for coastal geological monitoring

What's next

Evaluation of use of GeoVisionary and SIGMA mobile for virtual and ground-truthing geological mapping across the coastal zone (White Ribbon), using Dorset and East Riding as pilot areas with production of preliminary surveying results (to be presented at the MAREMAP conference Nov 2013).