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Introduction to Coastal Interactions



Fig. 5.1. Rugged rocky coastline, Big Sur region, California

Image courtesy of NOAA

The coastline is the boundary between the ocean and the land. The term “coastal zone” is sometimes used to describe the broader geographical region where the world ocean interacts with land. Coastal zones include rocky shores, dense mangrove forests, and muddy saltmarshes. The features of a particular coastal zone are largely determined by the combined interaction of the local geology, ocean waves and currents, and organisms. Approximately half of the world’s human population lives near the coast and thus can impact, and be impacted, by coastal interactions. A better understanding of coastal interactions can help conserve natural resources, protect valuable property, and save lives.


Ocean Literacy Principles

Principle 2: The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.


Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: Erosion—the wearing away of rock, soil, and other biotic and abiotic earth materials—occurs in coastal areas as wind, waves, and currents in rivers and the ocean move sediments. (OLP 2c)


Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: Sand consists of tiny bits of animals, plants, rocks, and minerals. Most beach sand is eroded from land sources and carried to the coast by rivers, but sand is also eroded from coastal sources by surf. Sand is redistributed by waves and coastal currents seasonally. (OLP 2d)


To build an understanding of how the ocean and ocean life shape Earth’s features, it is important to closely examine coasts where the ocean interacts with landmasses.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:

Representative Image
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.