Mapping the Shoreface of Coastal Sediment Compartments to Improve Shoreline Change Forecasts in New South Wales, Australia

Publication Name

Estuaries and Coasts


The potential response of shoreface depositional environments to sea level rise over the present century and beyond remains poorly understood. The shoreface is shaped by wave action across a sedimentary seabed and may aggrade or deflate depending on the balance between time-averaged wave energy and the availability and character of sediment, within the context of the inherited geological control. For embayed and accommodation-dominated coastal settings, where shoreline change is particularly sensitive to cross-shore sediment transport, whether the shoreface is a source or sink for coastal sediment during rising sea level may be a crucial determinant of future shoreline change. While simple equilibrium-based models (e.g. the Bruun Rule) are widely used in coastal risk planning practice to predict shoreline change due to sea level rise, the relevance of fundamental model assumptions to the shoreface depositional setting is often overlooked due to limited knowledge about the geomorphology of the nearshore seabed. We present high-resolution mapping of the shoreface-inner shelf in southeastern Australia from airborne lidar and vessel-based multibeam echosounder surveys, which reveals a more complex seabed than was previously known. The mapping data are used to interpret the extent, depositional character and morphodynamic state of the shoreface, by comparing the observed geomorphology to theoretical predictions from wave-driven sediment transport theory. The benefits of high-resolution seabed mapping for improving shoreline change predictions in practice are explored by comparing idealised shoreline change modelling based on our understanding of shoreface geomorphology and morphodynamics before and after the mapping exercise.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





First Page


Last Page


Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



Link to publisher version (DOI)