Factors that affect landforms at the coast

Some areas of the British coastline are more vulnerable to coastal erosion than others. Coastal landforms are affected by a range of factors. Some of these factors slow down or speed up the rate that landforms are being created.

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As one coastal landform is eroded, another may form.
A summary map of the factors which affect erosion and the rates of landform change.

The key factors which affect coastlines are:

  • The rock type/geology (see map below). Hard rock types are less likely to erode.
  • The fetch of the wave and the strength of the wind. Powerful winds and a long fetch create the most damaging (erosive) waves.
  • The angle of the slope – steep slopes erode more violently and frequently.
  • Weather conditions – freezing temperatures and heavy rain increase weathering and the rate of erosion.
  • The amount of vegetation – the presence of vegetation helps stabilise slopes but also increases the occurrence of biological weathering.
  • The amount of human interference – if there are no man-made structures (eg sea walls) to protect the coast, then the coast is more vulnerable to attack. However, the construction of houses, industry and other man-made structures in the first instance are the reasons why coastal erosion is a concern.
The east coast of the UK has mainly ‘younger’ softer rock types which are more vulnerable to attack by waves.The east coast of the UK has mainly ‘younger’ softer rock types which are more vulnerable to attack by waves.
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