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Coastal evolution of soft cliff coasts: headland formation and evolution on the Southwest Isle of Wight

Coastal evolution of soft cliff coasts: headland formation and evolution on the Southwest Isle of Wight
Coastal evolution of soft cliff coasts: headland formation and evolution on the Southwest Isle of Wight
The standard model of headland formation assumes a coastline with discordant geology, where the less resistant rock is eroded at a higher rate than the more resistant geology. The indentation of the coastline will continue to increase until variations in wave energy due to refraction balance with the variation in rock strength and beach volume. On soft cliff coasts, where no systematic variations in cliff lithology or strength exist subtle headlands are still seen. Several examples of this can be seen on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight, a coastline of complex interbedded soft rock lithology. Its relatively straight planform is punctuated by three established and one potentially emerging headland. All of these headlands are fronted by locally elevated intertidal shore platforms. It was hypothesised that these platform potentially act in three ways. Firstly by reducing the amount of wave energy reaching the cliff base, thus reducing local cliff recession rates. The second may counteract the first by increasing the wave energy directed at the cliff base due to refraction, the balance between these two effects will determine if a headland will grow, be maintained or decline. Thirdly by blocking longshore transport of beach sediment, building a protective beach up-drift, while starving the downdrift coast of sediment, potentially accelerating erosion in that area. To test these three possible mechanisms, investigation into the geological and geotechnical properties of the cliff and platform, beach volumes and sediment budget, wave refraction, and historical recession rates was undertaken. The elevation of the shore platform is controlled by their resistance to erosion, which is related to aspects of their lithology and structural geology. These include clay content, mass properties, dip and strike in relation to the orientation of the coastline and the strength of the surrounding beds. Although two of the established headlands, Hanover and Atherfield Points act as a partial barrier to sediment transport the sediment volumes along the coastline were insufficient to significantly influence recession rates. The results of the sediment budget indicate that the low sediment volumes observed are likely to have been consistent over time due to the low inputs of beach grade sediment. Wave refraction modelling revealed that concentration of wave energy occurs towards the established headlands of Hanover and Atherfield Points this is reflected in the higher than average recession rates seen at these headlands. It is concluded that the major control of the formation and evolution of headlands on the southwest coast is the geological and geotechnical properties of the intertidal platforms. Once established these headlands exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium controlled by the persistence of the platform forming beds and the balance between refraction and attenuation of wave energy across the platform surface. These results may have widespread implications on soft cliffed sediment-starved coasts where similar processes are dominant.
Stuiver, C.
7311efda-0db7-4a35-9e32-d2ed48cfbf9a
Stuiver, C.
7311efda-0db7-4a35-9e32-d2ed48cfbf9a
Nicholls, Robert
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076

(2013) Coastal evolution of soft cliff coasts: headland formation and evolution on the Southwest Isle of Wight. University of Southampton, Engineering and the Environment, Doctoral Thesis, 277pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The standard model of headland formation assumes a coastline with discordant geology, where the less resistant rock is eroded at a higher rate than the more resistant geology. The indentation of the coastline will continue to increase until variations in wave energy due to refraction balance with the variation in rock strength and beach volume. On soft cliff coasts, where no systematic variations in cliff lithology or strength exist subtle headlands are still seen. Several examples of this can be seen on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight, a coastline of complex interbedded soft rock lithology. Its relatively straight planform is punctuated by three established and one potentially emerging headland. All of these headlands are fronted by locally elevated intertidal shore platforms. It was hypothesised that these platform potentially act in three ways. Firstly by reducing the amount of wave energy reaching the cliff base, thus reducing local cliff recession rates. The second may counteract the first by increasing the wave energy directed at the cliff base due to refraction, the balance between these two effects will determine if a headland will grow, be maintained or decline. Thirdly by blocking longshore transport of beach sediment, building a protective beach up-drift, while starving the downdrift coast of sediment, potentially accelerating erosion in that area. To test these three possible mechanisms, investigation into the geological and geotechnical properties of the cliff and platform, beach volumes and sediment budget, wave refraction, and historical recession rates was undertaken. The elevation of the shore platform is controlled by their resistance to erosion, which is related to aspects of their lithology and structural geology. These include clay content, mass properties, dip and strike in relation to the orientation of the coastline and the strength of the surrounding beds. Although two of the established headlands, Hanover and Atherfield Points act as a partial barrier to sediment transport the sediment volumes along the coastline were insufficient to significantly influence recession rates. The results of the sediment budget indicate that the low sediment volumes observed are likely to have been consistent over time due to the low inputs of beach grade sediment. Wave refraction modelling revealed that concentration of wave energy occurs towards the established headlands of Hanover and Atherfield Points this is reflected in the higher than average recession rates seen at these headlands. It is concluded that the major control of the formation and evolution of headlands on the southwest coast is the geological and geotechnical properties of the intertidal platforms. Once established these headlands exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium controlled by the persistence of the platform forming beds and the balance between refraction and attenuation of wave energy across the platform surface. These results may have widespread implications on soft cliffed sediment-starved coasts where similar processes are dominant.

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Published date: October 2013
Organisations: University of Southampton, Energy & Climate Change Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 366515
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/366515
PURE UUID: 6c758bab-fd5f-42f0-9c98-d934646bc343
ORCID for Robert Nicholls: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9715-1109

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Date deposited: 03 Nov 2014 13:50
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:44

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Contributors

Author: C. Stuiver
Thesis advisor: Robert Nicholls ORCID iD

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