Australian coastal compartments: past, present and future

Andrew D Short1

1School of Geosciences, University of Sydney NSW


The Australian coast contains hundreds of distinct coastal systems stretching from tropical to temperate latitudes and from humid to arid environments. The dimensions and basic characteristics of each of these systems has been recently mapped and documented by the Australia coastal sediment compartments project (Thom et al., 2018), and each described in more detail by Short (2020). Using the sediment compartment approach each system’s history, present status and future can be set within its geological setting and the past, present and future sediment budget. The present coast commenced accumulating shelf and fluvial sediment from the mid-Holocene, though at vastly different regional rate and volumes. In some compartments early massive sediment supply was rapidly exhausted leading to shoreline recession, while in others the shoreline stabilized and some continue to receive sediment and build the shoreline. However, while the basic characteristics and mode and timing of evolution can be generally defined for each compartment, detailed chrono-stratigraphic studies, offshore sediment mapping, and modelling of entire sediment compartment and in some cases adjoining compartments is required to produce a detailed evolutionary history and understand the present status and stability, as well as and likely future directions and changes. This talk will present a very broad overview of the coast its Holocene history and status, followed by a brief look at some recent studies that have attempted to quantify recent coastal behaviour and predict future change and which indicate how such studies can assist managing present and future coastal systems.


Andy Short is a coastal geomorphologist specializing in coastal processes, morphology and evolution. He has degrees from the University of Sydney, University of Hawaii and Louisiana State University and has worked on the coasts of North and South America, including north Alaska and Hawaii, Europe, New Zealand, Korea and the entire Australian coast. He is presently Honorary Professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney; Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong; Senior Coastal Scientist (part-time) with; and board member of National Surfing Reserves (Australia). He also runs his own consultancy called Coastal Studies and served on the NSW Coastal Panel (2011-2019). He has written 11 books, edited 5 and published over 200 scientific publications and reports. His contribution to both coastal science and beach safety was recognized on Australia Day 2010 with an Order of Australia Medal. His latest book (2019) covers the entire Australian coast and it’s 354 sediment compartments and is titled “Australian Coastal Systems: beaches, barriers and sediment compartments”.