Controls on dune scarping

Samuel G. Davidson, Patrick A. Hesp, Graziela Miot da Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The controls that affect the degree of spatio-temporal change to foredunes following scarping are reviewed herein. As sea-levels rises and climate changes, dune scarping will become more common. Thus, it is critical to understand what factors contribute to the magnitude of scarping, and what effect this has on dune systems to better manage coastal erosion into the future. Scarping occurs when foredunes are partially eroded by waves, generally during periods of high water level. The controls on the degree and magnitude of scarping examined include water level, foredune vegetation cover and species present, plant root mass, height and volume of the foredune, the original foredune morphology, surfzone–beach type, and compaction of sediment. Water-level height and duration of high water is the most significant control as it determines the elevation at which wave action can erode the dune and, therefore, the extent of scarping and dune volumetric loss. Higher plant density, greater rooting depth, high root mass, and greater compaction aid in reducing the degree of scaping. The presence of large woody debris and wrack may also influence the degree of scarping. The effects scarping has on the morphology of a foredune after the initial erosion event can range from small changes (e.g. minor, small scarps and slight slumping), to moderate changes such as the foredune translating landwards, to large change such as the transition of an entire dune system into a new transgressive dunefield phase. A new model summarising the key controls and their relationship/significance to the magnitude and extent of scarping is presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-947
Number of pages25
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number6
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Coastal geomorphology
  • dunes
  • erosion
  • foredunes
  • scarps
  • vegetation


Dive into the research topics of 'Controls on dune scarping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this