Beaches and dunes of human-altered coasts

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Landforms are created, reshaped or eliminated to suit human needs. These alterations affect the mechanisms of change, freedom of movement, locations of sources and sinks for sediment, internal structure, outward appearance and spatial and temporal scales of landform evolution. The processes by which landscapes are transformed by human agency follows a progression of alterations that may be subtle or overt, planned or unplanned, but most of them are predictable. Models of change for human-altered coasts may be formulated by viewing them as open or closed systems. Alternative methodologies for examining evolution of these coasts include: 1) comparing and contrasting a developed area with an undeveloped area that is assumed to have the same process controls; 2) assuming that the kind of shoreline change that occurred in the recent past will continue unabated by local actions; or 3) basing predictions on probabilities of future human action. Evidence suggests that human alterations are an integral component of landscape evolution. Future challenges for scientists include: 1) formulating conceptual and predictive models of landform dynamics that evaluate humans as an endogenic process and include assumption about human actions; and 2) providing scientific criteria for maintaining landforms in developed areas in ways that safeguard or promote an optimal diversity of landforms, species and ecosystems. Controlled disturbance may be required to create landforms compatible with natural landforms in appearance and function if not in genesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-516
Number of pages20
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


  • beaches
  • coasts
  • dunes
  • geomorphic systems
  • landforms
  • sediments


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