The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary between the land and the ocean or a lake. The Earth has around 620,000 kilometres (390,000 mi) of coastline. Coasts are important zones in natural ecosystems, often home to a wide range of biodiversity. On land, they harbor important ecosystems such as freshwater or estuarine wetlands, which are important for bird populations and other terrestrial animals. In wave-protected areas they harbor saltmarshes, mangroves or seagrasses, all of which can provide nursery habitat for finfish, shellfish, and other aquatic species. Rocky shores are usually found along exposed coasts and provide habitat for a wide range of sessile animals and various kinds of seaweeds. Along tropical coasts with clear, nutrient-poor water, coral reefs can often be found between depths of 1–50 meters.
In physical geography, a fjord or fiord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. Fjords exist on the coasts of Alaska, Antarctica, British Columbia, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Ireland, Kamchatka, the Kerguelen Islands, Labrador, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Norway, Novaya Zemlya, Nunavut, Quebec, the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile, Russia, South Georgia Island, Tasmania, United Kingdom, and Washington state. Norway's coastline is estimated to be 29,000 km (18,000 mi) long with its nearly 1,200 fjords, but only 2,500 km (1,600 mi) long excluding the fjords.
An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments and are an example of an ecotone. Estuaries are subject both to marine influences such as tides, waves, and the influx of saline water, and to fluvial influences such as flows of freshwater and sediment. The mixing of seawater and freshwater provides high levels of nutrients both in the water column and in sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world.
In oceanography, geomorphology, and geoscience, a shoal is a natural submerged ridge, bank, or bar that consists of, or is covered by, sand or other unconsolidated material and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. It often refers to those submerged ridges, banks, or bars that rise near enough to the surface of a body of water as to constitute a danger to navigation. Shoals are also known as sandbanks, sandbars, or gravelbars. Two or more shoals that are either separated by shared troughs or interconnected by past or present sedimentary and hydrographic processes are referred to as a shoal complex.
Landforms are categorized by characteristic physical attributes such as their creating process, shape, elevation, slope, orientation, rock exposure, and soil type.
A spit or sandspit is a deposition bar or beach landform off coasts or lake shores. It develops in places where re-entrance occurs, such as at a cove's headlands, by the process of longshore drift by longshore currents. The drift occurs due to waves meeting the beach at an oblique angle, moving sediment down the beach in a zigzag pattern. This is complemented by longshore currents, which further transport sediment through the water alongside the beach. These currents are caused by the same waves that cause the drift.
Longshore drift from longshore current is a geological process that consists of the transportation of sediments along a coast parallel to the shoreline, which is dependent on the angle incoming wave direction. Oblique incoming wind squeezes water along the coast, and so generates a water current which moves parallel to the coast. Longshore drift is simply the sediment moved by the longshore current. This current and sediment movement occur within the surf zone. The process is also known as littoral drift.
Barrier islands are coastal landforms and a type of dune system that are exceptionally flat or lumpy areas of sand that form by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast. They usually occur in chains, consisting of anything from a few islands to more than a dozen. They are subject to change during storms and other action, but absorb energy and protect the coastlines and create areas of protected waters where wetlands may flourish. A barrier chain may extend uninterrupted for over a hundred kilometers, excepting the tidal inlets that separate the islands, the longest and widest being Padre Island of Texas. Sometimes an important inlet may close permanently, transforming an island into a peninsula, thus creating a barrier peninsula. The length and width of barriers and overall morphology of barrier coasts are related to parameters including tidal range, wave energy, sediment supply, sea-level trends, and basement controls. The amount of vegetation on the barrier has a large impact on the height and evolution of the island.
A body of water or waterbody is any significant accumulation of water on the surface of Earth or another planet. The term most often refers to oceans, seas, and lakes, but it includes smaller pools of water such as ponds, wetlands, or more rarely, puddles. A body of water does not have to be still or contained; rivers, streams, canals, and other geographical features where water moves from one place to another are also considered bodies of water.
Bombetoka Bay is a bay on the northwestern coast of Madagascar near the city of Mahajanga, where the Betsiboka River flows into the Mozambique Channel. Numerous islands and sandbars have formed in the estuary from the large amount of sediment carried in by the Betsiboka River and have been shaped by the flow of the river and the push and pull of tides.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Oceanography.
A fringing reef is one of the three main types of coral reef. It is distinguished from the other main types, barrier reefs and atolls, in that it has either an entirely shallow backreef zone (lagoon) or none at all. If a fringing reef grows directly from the shoreline, then the reef flat extends to the beach and there is no backreef. In other cases, fringing reefs may grow hundreds of yards from shore and contain extensive backreef areas within which it contains food and water, examples are Philippines, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, the western coast of Australia, the Caribbean, East Africa, and Red Sea. Charles Darwin believed that fringing reefs are the first kind of reefs to form around a landmass in a long-term reef growth process. The largest fringing coral reef in the world is the Ningaloo Reef, stretching to around 260 km (160 mi) along the coastline of Western Australia.
A river mouth is where a river flows into a larger body of water, such as another river, a lake/reservoir, a bay/gulf, a sea, or an ocean. At the river mouth, sediments are often deposited due to the slowing of the current reducing the carrying capacity of the water.
Coastal fish, also called inshore fish or neritic fish, inhabit the sea between the shoreline and the edge of the continental shelf. Since the continental shelf is usually less than 200 metres (660 ft) deep, it follows that pelagic coastal fish are generally epipelagic fish, inhabiting the sunlit epipelagic zone. Coastal fish can be contrasted with oceanic fish or offshore fish, which inhabit the deep seas beyond the continental shelves.
Estuaries of Australia are features of the Australian coastline. They are linked to tides, river mouths and coastal features and conditions. In many cases the features of estuaries are also named inlets.
The Laguna de Tacarigua National Park, also known as Tacarigua Lagoon National Park, is a protected area with the status of a national park located east of Miranda State, in the South American country of Venezuela. It comprises a permanent coastal lagoon of 7800 ha and 1.2 m of average depth, separated from the sea by a restinga or coastal barrier of 28.8 km long and 300–1000 m wide that was formed by the action of the sea current which runs along the coast in an East-West direction.
A hapua is a river-mouth lagoon on a mixed sand and gravel (MSG) beach, formed at the river-coast interface where a typically braided, although sometimes meandering, river interacts with a coastal environment that is significantly affected by longshore drift. The lagoons which form on the MSG coastlines are common on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand and have long been referred to as hapua by the Māori. This classification differentiates hapua from similar lagoons located on the New Zealand coast termed waituna.
The U.S. state of Texas has a series of estuaries along its coast on the Gulf of Mexico, most of them bounded by the Texas barrier islands. Estuaries are coastal bodies of water in which freshwater from rivers mixes with saltwater from the sea. Twenty-one drainage basins terminate along the Texas coastline, forming a chain of seven major and five minor estuaries: listed from southwest to northeast, these are the Rio Grande Estuary, Laguna Madre, the Nueces Estuary, the Mission–Aransas Estuary, the Guadalupe Estuary, the Colorado–Lavaca Estuary, East Matagorda Bay, the San Bernard River and Cedar Lakes Estuary, the Brazos River Estuary, Christmas Bay, the Trinity–San Jacinto Estuary, and the Sabine–Neches Estuary. Each estuary is named for its one or two chief contributing rivers, excepting Laguna Madre, East Matagorda Bay, and Christmas Bay, which have no major river sources. The estuaries are also sometimes referred to by the names of their respective primary or central water bodies, though each also includes smaller secondary bays, inlets, or other marginal water bodies.
The coral reefs of Tuvalu consist of three reef islands and six atolls, containing approximately 710 km2 (270 sq mi) of reef platforms. The islands of the Tuvalu archipelago are spread out between the latitude of 5° to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. The islands of Tuvalu are volcanic in origin. On the atolls, an annular reef rim surrounds the lagoon, and may include natural reef channels. The reef islands have a different structure to the atolls, and are described as reef platforms as they are smaller tabular reef platforms that do not have a salt-water lagoon, although they may have a completely closed rim of dry land, with the remnants of a lagoon that has no direct connection to the open sea or that may be drying up.