Geomorphology of Irish estuaries: Inherited and dynamic controls

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The Irish (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) coast contains a diverse range of estuary forms that have developed in response to a combination of contemporary dynamic conditions and inherited factors. Most of the coastline is bedrock-framed and estuaries typically occur in bedrock-confined valleys. The effects of the last glaciation, however, largely control the relative sea-level history of the island. Thus the depths of bedrock valleys are substantially greater in the south, where sea levels fell to at least 60m below present levels compared to 30m below present in the north. Further inherited control is imparted through the distribution of glacially-derived sediment on the coast and adjacent shelf. Major sediment sources for contemporary estuarine barriers coincide with known glacial limits and retreat phase stabilisation. Contemporary dynamics vary substantially around the coast with the main contrast being between the exposed Atlantic western coast and sheltered eastern, Irish Seacoast. Tidal range varies around the island from micro- to macrotidal and this too exerts a strong control on estuary morphology. This paper presents a threefold classification of estuary type in Ireland (drowned river valley estuary, river-dominated estuary and bar-built estuary) and attributes the variation in morphology primarily to inherited controls related to the island's paraglacial setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-180
JournalJournal of Coastal Research
Issue numberSp. Is
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2006


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