Coastal compartments: the role of sediment supply and morphodynamics in a beach management context

Publication Name

Journal of Coastal Conservation


Coastal compartments provide a hierarchical framework to manage beaches and coastal ecosystems in Australia. This study examines the individual behaviour of three adjacent beaches within Shoalhaven Bight, a secondary compartment on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW). The Shoalhaven River discharges intermittently into the northernmost of the beaches, and a fluvial component is detectable within beach and foredune sands. The distribution and orientation of headlands constrains dispersal of fluvial sediments, and results in lower wave-energy conditions further south, implying limited sand transport from one beach, or tertiary compartment, to another. Two years of monthly subaerial surveys across ten different profiles and modelled storm-wave conditions during the major storms, were used to compare the response of beach volume and shoreline position. The greatest changes in volume were observed near Shoalhaven Heads and the northern ends of Culburra and Warrain-Currarong beaches. Results indicate the distinct individual response of neighbouring beaches over the two-year period, in contrast to general trends in beach behavior that might be inferred from long-term regional monitoring programs. However, they also demonstrate the limitations of short-term observations in comparison to those longer-term studies. The NSW beach systems of are some of the best understood in the world in terms of regional behaviour, as a consequence of several decades of surveys on key beaches. However, more focused local monitoring programs may be needed to establish detailed coastal sand transport, and an understanding of intermittent delivery of fluvial sand and longshore inputs and outputs, within and between different compartments.

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Funding Sponsor

University of New South Wales



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