Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • This chapter is unavailable for purchase
  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: March 2013

7 - Coastal sediment transport

from Part II - Coastal Processes



Modification of the coast takes place through the erosion, transport and deposition of material that is either eroded by waves and currents or brought to the coast, e.g., by rivers. Fine sediments in the silt and clay size range do not occur in appreciable amounts in the inner nearshore and surf zones on energetic coasts. They tend to be placed in suspension and diffuse uniformly through the water column. They are then removed offshore or alongshore where they settle out of suspension in deep water in the outer shoreface or further offshore. Fine sediments may also be brought into estuaries, bays and lagoons where they are deposited in quiet water, often promoted by the presence of vegetation such as seagrasses, salt marsh plants and mangroves. Coarser particles of sand and gravel are exchanged readily between the inner nearshore and surf zones and the beach, and may be transported alongshore in appreciable quantities. It is usual to distinguish between processes that lead to the net transport of sediment onshore or offshore (shore normal transport) and those tending to move sediment alongshore (longshore sediment transport), though both processes occur simultaneously.

Except in a few locations in the surf zone, such as rip channels and where longshore currents are fastest, unidirectional currents in the nearshore and surf zone are generally not strong enough to erode and transport coarse sediment directly.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Further reading
Fredsøe, J. and Deigaard, R. 1992. Mechanics of Coastal Sediment Transport. World Scientific, Singapore, 369 pp.
Aagaard, T. and Greenwood, B. 1995. Suspended sediment transport and the role of infragravity waves in a barred surf zone. Marine Geology, 118, 23–48.
Aagaard, T., Nielsen, J. and Greenwood, B. 1998. Suspended sediment transport and nearshore bar formation on a shallow intermediate state beach. Marine Geology, 148, 203–225.
Aagaard, T., Greenwood, B. and Nielsen, J. 2002. Bed level changes and megaripple migration on a barred beach. Journal of Coastal Research, SI 34, 110–116.
Ashton, A., Murray, A. B. and Arnault, O. 2001. Formation of coastal features by large-scale instabilities induced by high angle waves. Nature, 414, 296–300.
Austin, M. J. and Masselink, G. 2008. The effect of bedform dynamics on computing suspended sediment fluxes using optical backscatter sensors and current meters. Coastal Engineering, 55, 251–260.
Bagnold, R. A., 1946. Motion of waves in shallow water. Interaction between waves and sand bottoms. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A, 187, 1–15.
Bagnold, R. A. 1963. Mechanics of marine sedimentation. In Hill, M. N. (ed.), The Sea, Wiley–Interscience, New York, pp. 507–528.
Bagnold, R. A. 1966. An approach to the sediment transport problem from general physics. US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 422-I, 37 pp.
Baillard, J. A. 1981. An energetics total load sediment transport model for a plane sloping beach. Journal of Geophysical Research, 86, 10,938–10,954.
Bayram, A., Larson, M., Miller, H. C. and Kraus, N. C. 2001. Cross-shore distribution of longshore sediment transport: Comparison between predictive formulas and field measurements. Coastal Engineering, 44, 79–99.
Bayram, A., Larson, M. and Hanson, H. 2007. A new formula for the total longshore sediment transport rate. Coastal Engineering, 54, 700–710.
Beach, R. A. and Sternberg, R. W. 1988. Suspended sediment transport in the surf zone: response to cross-shore infragravity motion. Marine Geology, 80, 61–79.
Bodge, K. R. and Dean, R. G. 1987. Short-term impoundment of longshore transport. Coastal Sediments, '87, ASCE469–483.
Booij, N., Holthuijsen, L. H. and Battjes, J. A. 2001. Ocean to near-shore wave modelling with SWAN. Proceedings Coastal Dynamics '01, ASCE335–344.
Bowen, A. J. 1980. Simple models of nearshore sedimentation; beach profiles and longshore bars. In McCann, S. B. (ed.), The Coastline of Canada. Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 80–10, 1–11.
Bowen, A. J. and Inman, D. L. 1966. Budget of Littoral Sands in the Vicinity of Point Arguello, California. Coastal Engineering Research Centre, Technical Memorandum 19, 41 pp.
Boyd, G. L., 1981. Great Lakes Erosion Monitoring Program – Final Report. Ocean Science and Surveys. Bayfield Lab for Marine Science and Surveys, Burlington, Ontario.
Bruno, R. O., Dean, R. G. and Gable, C. G. 1980. Longshore transport evaluations at a detached breakwater. Proceedings of the 17th Conference on Coastal Engineering, ASCE, pp. 1453–1475.
Bruun, P. 1954. Coast Erosion and the Development of Beach Profiles. Beach Erosion Board, Technical Memorandum, 44, 66 pp.
Carstens, M. R., Neilson, F. M. and Altinbilek, H. D. 1969. Bedforms Generated in the Laboratory Under an Oscillatory Flow: Analytical and Experimental Study. Coastal Engineering Research Centre, Technical Memorandum, 28, 39 pp.
Ciavola, O. 2004. Tracers. In Schwartz, M. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Coastal Sciences. Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1253–1258.
Ciavola, O., Taborda, R., Ferreira, O. and Dias, J. A. 1997. Field measurements of longshore sand transport and control processes on a steep meso-tidal beach in Portugal. Journal of Coastal Research, 13, 1119–1129.
Clifton, H. E. 1976. Wave-formed sedimentary structures – conceptual model. In: Davis, R. A., Ethington, R. L. (editors), Beach and Nearshore Sedimentation, Society for Economic Paleontology and Mineralogy, Special Publication 24, pp. 126–148.
Clifton, H. E., Hunter, R. E., Phillips, R. L. 1971. Depositional structures and processes in the non-barred high-energy nearshore. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 41, 651–670.
Coakley, J. P. 1976. The formation and evolution of Point Pelee, western Lake Erie. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 13, 136–144.
Coakley, J. P. 1989. The origin and evolution of a complex cuspate foreland: Pointe-aux-Pins, Lake Erie, Ontario. Géographie Physique et Quarternaire, 43, 65–76.
Coakley, J. P. 1992. Holocene transgression and coastal-landform evolution in northeastern Lake Erie, Canada. In Fletcher, C. H. and Wehmiller, J. F. (eds.), Quaternary Coasts of the United States: Marine and Lacustrine Systems. Society for Sedimentary Geology, Special Publication 48, pp. 415–426.
Coco, G. and Murray, A. B. 2007. Patterns in the sand: From forcing templates to self-organisation. Geomorphology, 91, 271–290.
Cooper, N. J. and Pontee, N. I. 2006. Appraisal and evolution of the littoral ‘sediment cell’ concept in applied coastal management: Experiences from England and Wales. Ocean and Coastal Management, 49, 498–510.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Greenwood, B. 1974. Bedforms and structures associated with bar topography in the shallow-water wave environment, Kouchibouguac Bay, New Brunswick, Canada. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 44, 698–704.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Greenwood, B. 1976. Facies relationships on a barred coast, Kouchibouguac Bay, New Brunswick. In Davis, R. A. and Ethington, R. L. (eds.), Beach and nearshore Sedimentation. SEPM, Special Publication No. 24, pp. 149–168.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Pember, G. F. 1980. Morphology and sedimentology of multiple parallel bar systems, Southern Georgian Bay, Ontario. In McCann, S. B. (ed.), The Coastline of Canada, Geological Survey of Canada Paper 80–10, pp. 417–428.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Amin, S. M. N. 1985. An approach to the problem of coastal erosion in Quaternary sediments. Applied Geography, 5, 99–116.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Stewart, C. J. 1987. The effect of longshore sandwaves on dune erosion and accretion, Long Point, Ontario. Proceedings of the Canadian Coastal Conference, National Research Council of Canada, pp. 131–144.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Conliffe Reid, H. E. 1994. Sedimentary processes and the evolution of the distal bayside of Long Point, Lake Erie. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 31, 1461–1473.
Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Heyningen, A. 2003. Migration and sedimentology of longshore sandwaves, Long Point, Lake Erie, Canada. Sedimentology, 50, 1123–1137.
Davies, A. G. 1985. Field observations of the threshold of sediment motion by wave action. Sedimentology, 32, 685–704.
Davies, J. L. 1974. Coastal sediment compartment. Australian Geographical Studies, 12, 139–151.
Dawson, J. C., Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. and Ollerhead, J. 2002. Low-energy morphodynamics of a ridge and runnel system. Journal of Coastal Research, SI 36, 198–215.
Dean, R. G., Berek, E. P., Gable, C. G. and Seymour, R. J. 1982. Longshore transport determined by an efficient trap. Proceedings 18th Coastal Engineering Conference, ASCE, 954–968.
Downing, J. P., Sternberg, R. W. and Lister, C. R. B. 1981. New instrumentation for the investigation of sediment suspension processes in the shallow marine environment. Marine Geology, 42, 19–34.
Doucette, J. S. 2000. The distribution of nearshore bedforms and effects on sand suspension on low-energy, micro-tidal beaches in Southwestern Australia. Marine Geology, 165, 41–61.
Duane, D. B. and James, W. R. 1980. Littoral transport in the surf zone elucidated by an Eulerian sediment tracer experiment. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 50, 929–952.
Gallagher, E. L., 2003. A note on megaripples in the surf zone: evidence for their relation to steady flow dunes. Marine Geology, 193, 171–176.
Gallagher, E. L., Elgar, S. and Thornton, E. B. 1998. Megaripple migration in a natural surf zone. Nature, 394, 165–168.
Gillie, R. D. 1985. Evaluation of field techniques for measurements of longshore transport. Proceedings Canadian Coastal Conference, National Research Council of Canada, 89–103.
Graham, M. and Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. 2005. Shoreline change and sediment transport patterns in the vicinity of Pointe-aux-Pins, Lake Erie: implications for past and future evolution. Proceedings Canadian Coastal Conference, CCSEA, 10pp.
Green, M. O. and Black, K. P. 1999. Suspended-sediment reference concentration under waves: field observations and critical analysis of two predictive models. Coastal Engineering, 38, 115–141.
Greenwood, B. and Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. 1979. Sedimentation and equilibrium in wave-formed bars: a review and case study. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 16, 312–332.
Greenwood, B. and Mittler, P. R. 1979. Structural indices of sediment transport in a straight, wave-formed bar. Marine Geology, 32, 191–203.
Greenwood, B. and Mittler, P. R. 1985. Vertical sequence and lateral transitions in the facies of a barred nearshore environment. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 55, 366–375.
Hay, A. E. and Bowen, A. J. 1994. Coherence scales of wave-induced suspended sand concentration fluctuations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 99, 12,749–12,765.
Heathershaw, A. D. and Carr, A. P., 1977. Measurements of sediment transport rates using radioactive tracers. Proceedings Coastal Sediments '77, ASCE, 399–416.
Hicks, D. M. and Inman, D. L. 1987. Sand dispersion from an ephemeral river delta on the Central California coast. Marine GeoIogy, 77, 305–318.
Houser, C., Greenwood, B. and Aagaard, T. 2006. Divergent response of an intertidal swash bar. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 31, 1775–1791.
Ingle, J. C. 1966. The Movement of Beach Sand. Elsevier, New York, 221 pp.
Inman, D. L. 1957. Wave-generated ripples in nearshore sands. Beach Erosion Board, Technical Memorandum 100.
Inman, D. L. 1987. Accretion and erosion waves on beaches. Shore and Beach, 55, 61–66.
Inman, D. L. and Bagnold, R. A. 1963. Littoral processes. In Hill, M. N. (ed.), The Sea, Wiley–Interscience, New York, pp. 529–553.
, Inman D. L. and Bowen, A. J. 1963. Flume experiments on sand transport by waves and currents. Proceedings of the 8th Conference on Coastal Engineering, ASCE, pp. 137–150.
Inman, D. L. and Frautschy, J. D. 1966. Littoral processes and the development of shorelines. Proceedings Coastal Engineering Conference, ASCE, pp. 511–536.
Inman, D. L., Zampol, J. A., White, T. E., Hanes, D. M., Waldorf, B. W. and Kastens, K. A. 1980. Field measurements of sand motion in the surf zone. Proceedings Coastal Engineering Conference, ASCE, pp. 1215–1234.
Jensen, B. L., Summer, B. M. and Fredsøe, J. 1989. Turbulent oscillatory boundary layers at high Reynolds numbers. Journal of Fluid Mechnics, 206, 265–297.
Johnson, H. K., Appendini, C. M., Soldati, M., Elfrink, B. and Sørenson, P. 2001. Numerical modelling of morphological changes due to shoreface nourishment, Proceedings Coastal Dynamics '01, ASCE, pp. 878–887.
Jonnson, I. G. and Carlsen, N. A. 1976. Experimental and theoretical investigations in an oscillatory turbulent boundary layer. Journal of Hydraulic Research, 14, 45–60.
Kamphuis, J. W. 1975. Friction factor under oscillatory waves. Journal of Waterway, Harbors and Coastal Engineering, ASCE, 101, 135–144.
Kamphuis, J. W. 1991. Alongshore sediment transport rate. Journal of the Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Division, ASCE, 117, 624–640.
Kamphuis, J. W., Davies, M. H., Nairn, R. B. and Sayao, O. J. 1986. Calculation of littoral sand transport rate. Coastal Engineering, 10, 1–21.
Komar, P. D. 1978. The relative significance of suspension versus bed-load on beaches. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 48, 921–932.
Komar, P. D. 1998. Beach processes and Sedimentation. Prentice-Hall, NJ, 2nd edn., 544 pp.
Komar, P. D. and Inman, D. C. 1970. Longshore sand transport on beaches. Journal of Geophysical Research, 75, 5914–5927.
Komar, P. D. and Miller, C. M. 1973. The threshold of sediment movement under oscillatory water waves. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 43, 1101–1110.
Kraus, N. C. 1987. Application of portable traps for obtaining point measurement of sediment transport rates in the surf zone. Journal of Coastal Research, 2, 139–152.
Larson, M. and Kraus, N. C. 1989. SBEACH: Numerical Model for Simulating Storm-Induced Beach Change. CERC Technical Report89–9.
Lawrence, P. L. and Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. 1997. Alongshore wave energy and sediment transport on south-eastern Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Coastal Research, 13, 1004–1015.
Li, M. Z. and Amos, C. L. 1999. Field observations of bedforms and sediment transport thresholds of fine sand under combined waves and currents. Marine Geology, 158, 147–160.
Madsen, O. S. 1987. Use of tracers in sediment transport studies. Proceedings Coastal Sediments 01, ASCE, pp. 424–435.
Masselink, G., Austin, M., Tinker, J., O'Hare, T. and Russell, P. 2008. Cross-shore sediment transport and morphological response on a macrotidal beach with intertidal bar morphology, Truc Vert, France. Marine Geology, 251, 141–155.
May, J. P. 1974. WAVENRG: A computer program to determine dissipation in shoaling water waves with examples from coastal Florida. In Tanner, W. F. (ed.), Sediment Transport in the Nearshore Zone. Coastal Research Notes, Department of Geology, Florida State University, 22–80.
May, J. P. and Tanner, W. F. 1973. The littoral power gradient and shoreline changes. In Coates, D. R. (ed.), Coastal Geomorphology, SUNY, New York, 43–60.
Miller, H. C. 1999. Field measurements of longshore sediment transport during storm. Coastal Engineering, 36, 301–321.
Miller, M. C. and Komar, P. D. 1980. A field investigation of the relationship between oscillation ripple spacing and the near-bottom water orbital motion. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 50, 183–191.
Mogridge, G. R. and Kamphuis, J. W. 1972. Experiments on bedform generation by wave action. Proceedings 13th Conference on Coastal Engineering, ASCE, 1123–1142.
Nairn, R. B. and Southgate, H. N. 1993. Deterministic profile modelling of nearshore processes. Part 2. Sediment transport and beach profile development. Coastal Engineering, 19, 57–96.
Nielsen, P. 1986. Suspended sediment concentrations under waves. Coastal Engineering, 8, 51–72.
Nielsen, P. 1992. Coastal Bottom Boundary Layer and Sediment Transport. Advanced Series on Ocean Engineering, 4, World Scientific, Singapore, 324 pp.
O'Donoghue, T. and Clubb, G. S. 2001. Sand ripples generated by regular oscillatory flow. Coastal Engineering, 44, 101–115.
Osborne, P. D. and Greenwood, B. 1992. Frequency dependent cross-shore suspended sediment transport. 1: A non-barred shoreface. Marine Geology, 106, 1–24.
Osborne, P. D. and Vincent, C. E. 1993. Dynamics of large and small scale bedforms on a macrotidal shoreface under shoaling and breaking waves. Marine Geology, 115, 207–226.
Osborne, P. D. and Vincent, C. E. 1996. Vertical and horizontal structure in suspended sand concentrations and wave-induced fluxes over bedforms. Marine Geology, 131, 195–208.
Patsch, K. and Griggs, G. 2008. A sand budget for the Santa Barbara littoral cell, California. Marine Geology, 252, 50–61.
Pringle, A. W. 1985. Holderness coast erosion and the significance of ords. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 10, 107–124.
Reinders, F. J. and Associates Canada Limited 1988. Littoral Cell Definition and Sediment Budget for Ontario's Great Lakes, Final Report 1988. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservation Authorities and Water Management Branch.
Rogers, A. L. and Ravens, T. M. 2008. Measurement of longshore sediment transport rates in the surf zone on Galveston Island, Texas. Journal of Coastal Research, 24, 62–73.
Rosati, J. D. 2005. Concepts in sediment budgets. Journal of Coastal Research, 21, 307–322.
Rosati, J., Gingerich, K. J., Kraus, N. C., Smith, J. M. and Beach, R. A. 1991. Longshore sand transport rate distributions measured in Lake Michigan. Coastal Sediments '91, ASCE, 156–183.
Ruessink, B. G., Houwman, K. T. and Hoekstra, P. 1998. The systematic contribution of transporting mechanisms to the cross-shore sediment transport in water depths of 3 to 9 m. Marine Geology, 152, 295–324.
Ruessink, B. G. and Jeuken, M. C. J. L. 2002. Dunefoot dynamics along the Dutch coast. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 27, 1043–1056.
Sanderson, P. G. and Eliot, I. 1999. Compartmentalisation of beachface sediments along the southwestern coast of Australia. Marine Geology, 162, 145–164.
Saville, T. 1950. Model study of sand transport along an infinitely long, straight beach. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 31, 555–565.
Schoonees, J. S. and Theron, A. K. 1995. Evaluation of 10 cross-shore sediment transport/morphological models. Coastal Engineering, 25, 1–41.
Sherman, D. J. and Greenwood, B. 1984. Boundary roughness and bedforms in the surf zone. In Greenwood, B. and Davis, R. A. (eds.), Hydrodynamics and Sedimentation in Wave-dominated Coastal Environments. Developments in Sedimentology 39, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 199–218.
Sherman, D. J., Short, A. D. and Takeda, I. 1993. Sediment mixing-depth and bedform migration in rip channels. Journal of Coastal Research, 15, 39–48.
Ship, R. C. 1984. Bedforms and depositional sedimentary structures of a barred nearshore system, eastern Long Island, New York. Marine Geology, 60, 235–259.
Silva, A., Taborda, R., Rodrigues, A., Duarte, J. and Cascalho, J. 2007. Longshore drift estimation using fluorescent tracers: New insights from an experiment at Comporta Beach, Portugal. Marine Geology, 240, 137–150.
Stewart, C. J. and Davidson-Arnott, R. G. D. 1988. Morphology, formation and migration of longshore sandwaves; Long Point, Lake Erie, Canada. Marine Geology, 81, 63–77.
Swales, A., Oldman, J. W., and Smith, K. 2006. Bedform geometry on a barred sandy shore, Marine Geology, 226, 243–259.
Thevenot, M. M. and Kraus, N. C. 1995. Longshore sand waves at Southhampton Beach, New York: observation and numerical simulation of their movement. Marine Geology, 126, 249–269.
Tonk, A. and Masselink, G. 2005. Evaluation of longshore transport equations with OBS sensors, streamer traps, and fluorescent tracer. Journal of Coastal Research, 21, 915–931.
Werf, J., Ebbe, J., Ribberink, J. S., O'Donoghue, T. and Doucette, J. S. 2006. Modelling and measurement of sand transport processes over full-scale ripples in oscillatory flow. Coastal Engineering, 53, 657–673.
Verhagen, H. J. 1989. Sand waves along the Dutch coast. Coastal Engineering, 13, 129–147.
Voulgaris, G. and Collins, M. B. 2000. Sediment resuspension on beaches: response to breaking waves. Marine Geology, 167, 167–187.
Wang, P., Kraus, N. C. and Davis, R. A.Jr. 1998. Total longshore sediment transport in the surf zone: field measurement and empirical prediction. Journal of Coastal Research, 14, 269–282.
Watts, G. M. 1953. A study of Sand Movement at South Lake Worth Inlet, Florida. Beach Erosion Board, Technical Memorandum 42.
Webb, M. P. and Vincent, C. E. 1999. Comparison of time-averaged acoustic backscatter concentration profile measurements with existing predictive models. Marine Geology, 162, 71–90.
Wiberg, P. L. 1995. A theoretical investigation of boundary layer flow and bottom shear stress for smooth, transitional and rough flow under waves. Journal of Geophysical Research, 100, 22667–22679.