Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Coast


A new dinosaur tracksite in the Vale de Meios quarry (Serra de Aire Formation, Bathonian, Portugal)preserves more than 700 theropod tracks. They are organized in at least 80 unidirectional trackways arranged in a bimodal orientation pattern (W/NW and E/SE). Quantitative and qualitative comparisons reveal that the large tridactyl, elongated and asymmetric tracks resemble the typical Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous Megalosauripus ichnogenus in all morphometric parameters. Few of the numerous tracks are preserved as elite tracks while the rest are preserved as different gradients of modified true tracks according to water content, erosive factors, radial fractures and internal overtrack formations. Taphonomical determinations are consistent with paleoenvironmental observations that indicate an inter-tidal flat located at the margin of a coastal barrier. The Megalosauripus tracks represent the oldest occurrence of this ichnotaxon and are attributed to large megalosaurid dinosaurs. Their occurrence in Vale de Meios tidal flat represents the unique paleoethological evidence of megalosaurids moving towards the lagoon, most likley during the low tide periods with feeding purposes.

Concepts: Coast, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Intertidal zone, Tide, Geodesy, Jurassic, Megalosaurus


Ecosystem boundary retreat due to human-induced pressure is a generally observed phenomenon. However, studies that document thresholds beyond which internal resistance mechanisms are overwhelmed are uncommon. Following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, field studies from a few sites suggested that oiling of salt marshes could lead to a biogeomorphic feedback where plant death resulted in increased marsh erosion. We tested for spatial generality of and thresholds in this effect across 103 salt marsh sites spanning ~430 kilometers of shoreline in coastal Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, using data collected as part of the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). Our analyses revealed a threshold for oil impacts on marsh edge erosion, with higher erosion rates occurring for ~1-2 years after the spill at sites with the highest amounts of plant stem oiling (90-100%). These results provide compelling evidence showing large-scale ecosystem loss following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. More broadly, these findings provide rare empirical evidence identifying a geomorphologic threshold in the resistance of an ecosystem to increasing intensity of human-induced disturbance.

Concepts: Petroleum, Soil, Marsh, Coast, Swamp, Salt marsh, Fen, Tidal marsh


It is predicted that the coastal zone will be among the environments worst affected by projected climate change. Projected losses in beach area will negatively impact on coastal infrastructure and continued recreational use of beaches. Beach nourishment practices such as artificial nourishment, replenishment and scraping are increasingly used to combat beach erosion but the extent and scale of projects is poorly documented in large areas of the world. Through a survey of beach managers of Local Government Areas and a comprehensive search of peer reviewed and grey literature, we assessed the extent of nourishment practices in Australia. The study identified 130 beaches in Australia that were subject to nourishment practices between 2001 and 2011. Compared to projects elsewhere, most Australian projects were small in scale but frequent. Exceptions were nine bypass projects which utilised large volumes of sediment. Most artificial nourishment, replenishment and beach scraping occurred in highly urbanised areas and were most frequently initiated in spring during periods favourable to accretion and outside of the summer season of peak beach use. Projects were generally a response to extreme weather events, and utilised sand from the same coastal compartment as the site of erosion. Management was planned on a regional scale by Local Government Authorities, with little monitoring of efficacy or biological impact. As rising sea levels and growing coastal populations continue to put pressure on beaches a more integrated approach to management is required, that documents the extent of projects in a central repository, and mandates physical and biological monitoring to help ensure the engineering is sustainable and effective at meeting goals.

Concepts: Sediment, Weather, Coast, Beach, Sand, Coastal geography, Extreme weather, Beach nourishment


Distribution and levels of C. botulinum type E was determined on field sites used by Inuit hunters for butchering seals along the coast of Nunavik. The incidence of C. botulinum type E in shoreline soil along the coast was 0, 50, and 87.5% of samples tested for the Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay, and Ungava Bay regions, respectively. Spores were detected in seawater or coastal rock surfaces from 17.6% of butchering sites, almost all located in southern Ungava Bay. Concentrations of C. botulinum type E along the Ungava Bay coast were significantly higher than the coasts of Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay, with the highest concentrations (270 to 1,800/kg) found near butchering sites located along the mouths of large rivers. The Koksoak River contained high levels of C. botulinum type E, with the highest median concentration (270/kg) found in sediments of the marine portion of the river. C. botulinum type E was found in the intestinal contents (4.4%) and skins (1.4%) of seals. A high genetic biodiversity of C. botulinum type E isolates was observed among the 21 butchering sites and their surroundings along the Nunavik coastline, with 83% of isolates (44/53) yielding distinct PFGE genotypes. Multiple sources of C. botulinum type E may be involved in the contamination of seal meat during butchering, but the risk of contamination appears to be much higher from environmental sources along the shoreline of southern Ungava Bay and the sediments of the Koksoak River.

Concepts: Coast, Inuit, Beach, Quebec, Clostridium botulinum, Nunavut, Nunavik, Hudson Bay


In coastal environments, evaporation is an important driver of subsurface salinity gradients in marsh systems. However, it has not been addressed in the intertidal zone of sandy beaches. Here, we used field data on an estuarine beach foreshore with numerical simulations to show that evaporation causes upper intertidal zone pore-water salinity to be double that of seawater. We found the increase in pore-water salinity mainly depends on air temperature and relative humidity, and tide and wave actions dilute a fraction of the high salinity plume, resulting in a complex process. This is in contrast to previous studies that consider seawater as the most saline source to a coastal aquifer system, thereby concluding that seawater infiltration always increases pore-water salinity by seawater-groundwater mixing dynamics. Our results demonstrate the combined effects of evaporation and tide and waves on subsurface salinity distribution on a beach face. We anticipate our quantitative investigation will shed light on the studies of salt-affected biological activities in the intertidal zone. It also impacts our understanding of the impact of global warming; in particular, the increase in temperature does not only shift the saltwater landward, but creates a different salinity distribution that would have implications on intertidal biological zonation.

Concepts: Water, Coast, Beach, Intertidal zone, Coastal geography, Tide, Shore, Tide pool


Sea level changes are typically caused by several natural phenomena, including ocean thermal expansion, glacial melt from Greenland and Antarctica. Global average sea level is expected to rise, through the twenty-first century, according to the IPCC projections by between 0.18 and 0.59 cm. Such a rise in sea level will significantly impact coastal area of the Nile Delta, consisting generally of lowland and is densely populated areas and accommodates significant proportion of Egypt’s economic activities and built-up areas. The Nile Delta has been examined in several previous studies, which worked under various hypothetical sea level rise (SLR) scenarios and provided different estimates of areas susceptible to inundation due to SLR. The paper intends, in this respect, to identify areas, as well as land use/land cover, susceptible to inundation by SLR based upon most recent scenarios of SLR, by the year 2100 using GIS. The results indicate that about 22.49, 42.18, and 49.22 % of the total area of coastal governorates of the Nile Delta would be susceptible to inundation under different scenarios of SLR. Also, it was found that 15.56 % of the total areas of the Nile Delta that would be vulnerable to inundation due to land subsidence only, even in the absence of any rise in sea level. Moreover, it was found that a considerable proportion of these areas (ranging between 32.32 and 53.66 %) are currently either wetland or undeveloped areas. Furthermore, natural and/or man-made structures, such as the banks of the International Coastal Highway, were found to provide unintended protection to some of these areas. This suggests that the inundation impact of SLR on the Nile Delta is less than previously reported.

Concepts: Coast, Population density, Egypt, Nile, Cairo, Nile Delta, Aswan Dam, Suez Canal


Colonial breeding is an evolutionary puzzle, as the benefits of breeding in high densities are still not fully explained. Although the dynamics of existing colonies are increasingly understood, few studies have addressed the initial formation of colonies, and empirical tests are rare. Using a high-resolution larval drift model, we here document that the distribution of seabird colonies along the Norwegian coast can be explained by variations in the availability and predictability of fish larvae. The modelled variability in concentration of fish larvae is, in turn, predicted by the topography of the continental shelf and coastline. The advection of fish larvae along the coast translates small-scale topographic characteristics into a macroecological pattern, viz. the spatial distribution of top-predator breeding sites. Our findings provide empirical corroboration of the hypothesis that seabird colonies are founded in locations that minimize travel distances between breeding and foraging locations, thereby enabling optimal foraging by central-place foragers.

Concepts: Scientific method, Larva, Bird, Coast, Optimal foraging theory, Foraging, Marine debris, Behavioral ecology


Plastic, as a form of marine litter, is found in varying quantities and sizes around the globe from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Identifying patterns of microplastic distribution will benefit an understanding of the scale of their potential effect on the environment and organisms. As sea ice extent is reducing in the Arctic, heightened shipping and fishing activity may increase marine pollution in the area. Microplastics may enter the region following ocean transport and local input, although baseline contamination measurements are still required. Here we present the first study of microplastics in Arctic waters, south and southwest of Svalbard, Norway. Microplastics were found in surface (top 16 cm) and sub-surface (6 m depth) samples using two independent techniques. Origins and pathways bringing microplastic to the Arctic remain unclear. Particle composition (95% fibres) suggests they may either result from the breakdown of larger items (transported over large distances by prevailing currents, or derived from local vessel activity), or input in sewage and wastewater from coastal areas. Concurrent observations of high zooplankton abundance suggest a high probability for marine biota to encounter microplastics and a potential for trophic interactions. Further research is required to understand the effects of microplastic-biota interaction within this productive environment.

Concepts: Ecology, Coast, Ocean, Norway, Arctic Ocean, Arctic, Polar bear, Arctic shrinkage


We build on previous work to construct a comprehensive database of shoreline oiling exposure from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill by compiling field and remotely-sensed datasets to support oil exposure and injury quantification. We compiled a spatial database of shoreline segments with attributes summarizing habitat, oiling category and timeline. We present new simplified oil exposure classes for both beaches and coastal wetland habitats derived from this database integrating both intensity and persistence of oiling on the shoreline over time. We document oiling along 2113km out of 9545km of surveyed shoreline, an increase of 19% from previously published estimates and representing the largest marine oil spill in history by length of shoreline oiled. These data may be used to generate maps and calculate summary statistics to assist in quantifying and understanding the scope, extent, and spatial distribution of shoreline oil exposure as a result of the DWH incident.

Concepts: Time, Mathematics, Petroleum, Marsh, Wetland, Coast, Beach, Oil


Coastal communities in tropical environments are at increasing risk from both environmental degradation and climate change and require urgent local adaptation action. Evidences show coral reefs play a critical role in wave attenuation but relatively little direct connection has been drawn between these effects and impacts on shorelines. Reefs are rarely assessed for their coastal protection service and thus not managed for their infrastructure benefits, while widespread damage and degradation continues. This paper presents a systematic approach to assess the protective role of coral reefs and to examine solutions based on the reef’s influence on wave propagation patterns. Portions of the shoreline of Grenville Bay, Grenada, have seen acute shoreline erosion and coastal flooding. This paper (i) analyzes the historical changes in the shoreline and the local marine, (ii) assess the role of coral reefs in shoreline positioning through a shoreline equilibrium model first applied to coral reef environments, and (iii) design and begin implementation of a reef-based solution to reduce erosion and flooding. Coastline changes in the bay over the past 6 decades are analyzed from bathymetry and benthic surveys, historical imagery, historical wave and sea level data and modeling of wave dynamics. The analysis shows that, at present, the healthy and well-developed coral reefs system in the southern bay keeps the shoreline in equilibrium and stable, whereas reef degradation in the northern bay is linked with severe coastal erosion. A comparison of wave energy modeling for past bathymetry indicates that degradation of the coral reefs better explains erosion than changes in climate and historical sea level rise. Using this knowledge on how reefs affect the hydrodynamics, a reef restoration solution is designed and studied to ameliorate the coastal erosion and flooding. A characteristic design provides a modular design that can meet specific engineering, ecological and implementation criteria. Four pilot units were implemented in 2015 and are currently being field-tested. This paper presents one of the few existing examples available to date of a reef restoration project designed and engineered to deliver risk reduction benefits. The case study shows how engineering and ecology can work together in community-based adaptation. Our findings are particularly important for Small Island States on the front lines of climate change, who have the most to gain from protecting and managing coral reefs as coastal infrastructure.

Concepts: Coral, Coral reef, Coast, Coastal and oceanic landforms, Bioerosion, Coastal geography, Tide, Geomorphology