Geomorphology is the study of form and structure of sand dunes. Dunes are found in three types of landscapes: sea coasts and lakeshores, river valleys, and arid regions. Coastal dunes are formed along coasts in areas above the high water mark of sandy beaches. They occur in both the northern and southern hemi sphere from the Arctic and Antarctic to the equator, and in arid and semi-arid regions. They are very common in temperate climates but are less frequent in tropical and subtropical coasts. Dunes are also common around river mouths where the sand carried in water is deposited (Carter et al. 1990b). During floods rivers overflow their banks and deposit sand in river valleys that is subsequently dried by wind and shaped into dunes. In dry regions with less than 200 mm of precipitation per year, the weathering of sandstone and other rocks produce sand that is subject to mass movement by wind because of sparsity of vegetation. There are many similarities in processes and patterns of dune form and structure among these three systems, however each location has its own unique features. In this chapter the emphasis will be on the geomorphology of dune systems along the coasts of oceans and lakes. Coastal geomorphologists have been attempting to classify the coastal land forms but they defy a simple classification because of tremendous variability in plant taxa, sand texture, wind velocity, climate, sand supply, coastal wave energy and biotic influences including human impact. According to Carter et al. (1990b) the great variety of coastal land forms around the world is primarily related to sediment availability, climate, wave energy, wind regime and types of vegetation. Classification based on these criteria would be more useful in distinguishing between shoreline dune forms than the use of subjective terms—for example white, grey or yellow dunes—sometimes employed by plant ecologists (Tansley 1953). Cowles (1899) said ´a dune complex is a restless maze´ because the great topographic diversity depends on changes in the dune terrain from day to day, month to month, season to season and year to year.
Keywords: Wentworth scale, barchans, barrier islands, blowouts, breaking waves, dune complexes, dune formation, dune ridges, dune slacks, embryo dunes, established foredunes, first dune ridge, foredunes, geomorphology, neap tides, oblique dunes, olivine sand, onshore deposition, parabolic dunes, particle sizes, plunging waves, quartz sand, rhizomes, ripples, sand ripples, saucer blowouts, scarps, sediment supply, shadow dunes, singing sand, spilling waves, spring tides, stoloniferous growth, surface creep, tsunamis
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