Short- and medium-term response to storms on three Mediterranean coarse-grained beaches

Edoardo Grottoli, Duccio Bertoni, Paolo Ciavola

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The storm response of three Italian coarse-grained beaches was investigated to better understand the morphodynamics of coarse-clastic beaches in a microtidal context. Two of the studied sites are located on the eastern side of the country (Portonovo and Sirolo) and the third one (Marina di Pisa) is on the western side. Portonovo and Sirolo are mixed sand and gravel beaches where the storms approach from two main directions, SE and NE. Marina di Pisa is a coarse-grained, gravel-dominated beach, exposed to storms driven by SW winds. Gravel nourishments were undertaken in recent years on the three sites. Beach topography was monitored measuring the same network of cross sections at a monthly (i.e. short-term) to seasonal frequency (i.e. medium-term). Geomorphic changes were examined before and after storm occurrences by means of profile analyses and shoreline position evaluations. The beach orientation and the influence of hard structures are the main factors controlling the transport and accumulation of significant amount of sediments and the consequent high variability of beach morphology over the medium-term. For Marina di Pisa, storms tend to accumulate material towards the upper part of the beach with no shoreline rotation and no chance to recover the initial configuration. Sirolo and Portonovo showed a similar behaviour that is more typical of pocket beaches. Both beaches show shoreline rotation after storms in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction according to the incoming wave direction. The wider and longer beach at Sirolo allows the accumulation of a thin layer of sediment during storms, rather than at Portonovo where, given its longshore and landward boundaries, the beach material tends to accumulate in greater thickness. After storms, Sirolo and especially Portonovo can quickly recover the initial beach configuration, as soon as another storm of comparable energy approaches from the opposite direction of the previous one. Large morphological variations after the storm on mixed sand and gravel beaches do not necessarily mean a slower recovery of surface topography and shoreline position. Considering that all the three beaches were recently nourished with gravel, it emerged that the differences between the nourishment and the native material, in terms of size and composition, seem to have an important influence on the dynamics of the sediment stock. Considering that recent studies have remarked the high abrasion rate of gravel, further understanding of the evolution of nourishment material with time is needed. The peculiar behaviour of gravel material artificially added to an originally sandy beach suggests the need to modify the widely used classification of Jennings and Shulmeister (2002) adding a fourth additional beach typology, which could represent human-altered beaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-748
Number of pages11
Early online date7 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Oct 2017


  • Beach nourishment
  • Beach recovery
  • Microtidal beach
  • Mixed beach
  • Shoreline rotation
  • Storm impact


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