Definition: a strip of land between high and low water mark and made up of deposits of mud, sand or gravel. A beach can be viewed as the system of sediment that is set in motion by waves to a depth of ten meters or more off ocean coasts.

Beaches of sand and boulders would appear to be the most unlikely landform to be found facing the high-energy environment of the open ocean. The beach is far from stable – it adjusts its shape continuously in response to changing wave energy and so maintains a dynamic equilibrium with its environment. Beaches are energy sinks and act as buffers between waves and the coast. Wave energy is dissipated by wide flat beach profiles that spread the oncoming wave energy. On the other hand, low energy flat waves are easily dissipated by a narrow steep beach. Shingle or boulder beaches dissipate wave energy in inter-particle friction and jostling. Sands blown from the beach feed the dunes systems inland.

Main image:Aerial view of Dunnet Beach near Thurso (AdobeStock_440614735)

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