Coastal and Marine Geography: More Than Just Flotsam & Jetsam
The paper below is in review for publication in
Gaile, G.L. and Willmott, C.J. (Eds.)
Geography in America at the Dawn of the 21st Century,
New York: Oxford University Press, in press, 2000.

© Copyright by N. Psuty, P. Steinberg, D. Wright, and Oxford University Press.
May be freely distributed electronically in whole or in part,but please keep this notice
attachedand do not alter the text.

Coastal and Marine Geography

Norbert P. Psuty, Philip E. Steinberg, and Dawn J. Wright

The 1990s saw a significant increase in popular interest in the U.S. regarding the geography of the world’s coastal and marine spaces. Factors behind this new interest include growing environmental awareness, a decade of unusually severe coastal storms, increased pollution, greater knowledge about (and technology for) depleting fishstocks, domestic legislation on coastal zone management and offshore fisheries policies, new opportunities for marine mineral extraction, heightened understanding of the role of marine life in maintaining the global ecosystem, new techniques for undertaking marine exploration, the 1994 activation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, reauthorization of the U.S. Coastal Zone Management Act in 1996, and designation of 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean.

Evolution of the Coastal and Marine Geography Specialty Group

Recognition of the importance of the global ocean came early to the Association of American Geographers (AAG). The first organized meeting of the Marine Geography Committee (MGC) of the AAG was held in 1970 in San Francisco, where it sponsored a session of six papers covering coastal geomorphology, fisheries, marine law, coastal research in Europe, the urban-maritime interface, and developing federal coastal interests and research funding. The first chair was Evelyn Pruitt. Although committee membership was limited to a handful of geographers who were appointed, participation in the MGC—sponsored sessions at the annual meetings of the AAG gradually increased, and by 1978 a marine geography directory listed eighty-four persons. When specialty groups were created by the AAG in 1979, the MGC structure was dissolved and the broad membership was reconstituted as the Marine Geography Specialty Group, which in 1981 was re-christened the Coastal and Marine Specialty Group (CoMa). In comparison to the first meeting in 1970, at the 1999 annual meeting in Honolulu CoMa (with a membership of 170) sponsored five special sessions, featuring twenty-four paper presentations.

During the 1990s, about 85 per cent of presentations in CoMa-sponsored sessions concerned coastal topics. However, presentations on non-coastal marine topics roughly tripled during the decade. This shift is accompanying a dramatic increase in research into global earth systems, terrestrial and marine, along with rising interest in global environmental concerns, global change, and the effects of human-induced change. Further, the ocean and coastal areas have drawn increasing attention from human geographers interested in policy, resource management, and development issues. Together, the members of CoMa are broadening the range and depth of physical, cultural, and economic issues initiated by the interest group begun decades earlier.

Starting in 1991, CoMa has recognized outstanding professional contributions by a coastal/marine geographer by conferring the Richard Joel Russell Award (Russell was president of the AAG in 1948, president of the Geological Society of America in 1957, and inducted in 1959 to the National Academy of Sciences). Five members have received the honor to date (Table 1).

Table 1. Past recipients of the Richard Joel Russell Award.





H. Jesse Walker

Louisiana State University


Filmore Earney

Northern Michigan University


Norbert P. Psuty

Rutgers University


Karl F. Nordstrom

Rutgers University


Douglas J. Sherman

University of Southern California

Although the focus of this paper is on current contributions and future directions for the CoMa specialty group, there are a host of geographers from other countries and professionals from other disciplines who are part of the general mix of empiricists and theoreticians that contribute to the advancement of knowledge of coastal and marine systems. However, this discourse is directed toward the contributions of geographers in the past decade, and especially to those active members of CoMa who have been part of our fountain of information.

Coastal Physical Geography

The largest category of geographers in CoMa is concerned with various aspects of coastal geomorphology, encompassing a multitude of techniques and morphologies (Mossa, et al., 1992; Morang et al., 1993). Philosophically, there are the traditional dichotomies between basic and applied inquiry, between intensive empirical observations and broad regional explanatory description, between modern process-response studies and Holocene (or older) evolutionary systems, between studying an altered site or a natural system, between refinements of technology and instrumentation and the application of analytical tools. There is no single best way to contribute to the body of knowledge, and there is no reason for every scientist to parrot the same approach or technique (Bauer, 1996). The diversity is an attribute in itself and it fosters progress. As ably described by Sherman and Bauer (1993), there are a variety of scales and approaches in coastal geomorphology and it is more important that the inquiry have a basis in theory and the literature than whether it is on one side or the other in a dichotomy.

Very basic inquiry regarding the mechanics of wave and sediment interaction to drive sediment transport in the nearshore zone is slowly revealing the processes that control the temporal and spatial scales of beach change. Whereas most of this research is within the realm of physics and engineering, the highly-instrumented empirical and theoretical work of Greenwood and his collaborators and students (Greenwood, et al, 1991; Osborne and Greenwood, 1992; Aagaard and Greenwood, 1994) has produced insights into the significance of wave groupiness and infragravity wave frequencies as causative factors in suspended sediment transport. Others have pursued the subharmonic and/or infragravity wave frequency theme in relating components of the beach morphologies to higher energy densities at these longer wave periods (Bauer, 1990; Jagger, et al., 1991; Allen, et al, 1996). Summary statements on basic processes and responses are included in the special issue on Coastal Geomorphology in the Geographical Review (Sherman, 1988)

The process-response paradigm in coastal geomorphology is that larger storms beget larger waves and currents that, in turn, drive more sediment transport and create the permanent changes at the coast. Although the eastern seaboard of the US is often battered by subtropical cyclones (hurricanes), the mid-latitude cyclones accompanied by strong frontal winds (northeasters) are more frequent bearers of high waves and storm surge along the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic shores. Through a series of papers that began more than a decade ago, Dolan and Davis (1992, 1994) have developed a well-recognized northeaster-storm intensity scale that has a foundation in weather and storm wave characteristics, and expands into a measure of storm-induced damage.

Coastal dunes of all shapes and sizes are worshipped for their role as an ecological niche in the midst of dense coastal development, approaching the level of the Holy Grail in parts of the U.S. The Coastal Zone Management Act specifically calls for the creation and enhancement of dunes in the coastal zone. There is increasing recognition of the variety of dune features that exist at the coast (Nordstrom, et al., 1990) and the interplay between the beach and coastal dunes (Psuty, 1988). The measurements of sand gains and losses in the dunes and the flows of sediment from the beach to the dune have been practiced along many shorelines (Davidson-Arnott and Law, 1996; Gares, et al., 1996; Jackson and Nordstrom, 1997). The research has led to a series of site-specific descriptions and categorizations of dune types and their interaction with local dynamics (McCann and Byrne, 1989; Gares, 1992; Nordstrom and Jackson, 1994). In addition, there has been growth of a developmental model of the spatial/temporal evolution of the coastal foredune and the coastal dune system within the framework of beach/dune interaction. This follows the concept of a developmental sequence produced by Short and Hesp (1982) and Hesp and Thom (1990) and elaborated on by Psuty (1988) and Sherman and Bauer (1993b), and in recognition of sediment budget as a formational variable (Psuty, 1992b).

Further contributions involve improvements to the very difficult task of elucidating the eolian transport equations in the multi-varied coastal foredune system and it may take development of improved hardware before measurements appropriate to model testing can be accomplished. Bauer and Namikas (1998) are constructing a rapid response saltation trap that could greatly improve our understanding of the application of transport equations to dune development (Namikas and Sherman, 1998).

Nordstrom (1994) provides another thrust in drawing attention to the role of humans in altering the natural processes and in dominating the dune system. Cultural modifications of the coastal environment have been instrumental in reworking the form and sediment distribution to such an extent that it would be perilous to ignore the limitations established by the human-induced topography or the human manipulations of the sediment budget in developed areas.

Interest in regional coastal geomorphology is directed primarily toward barrier beach systems and their spatial/temporal evolution and displacements. Stone and McBride developed empirical data sets and models that relate barrier island shifts on the Gulf Coast to regional sediment budget and to alongshore/cross-shore transfers ( Stone, et al, 1992; McBride and Byrnes, 1997; Stone and McBride, 1998). They point to step-wise non-periodic shifts accompanied by short-term oscillations. A similar approach has been used to study changes on more-localized barrier spits in other locales (Davidson-Arnott and Fisher, 1992; Ollerhead and Davidson-Arnott, 1993). A blending of sea-level rise effects, beach displacement, and stages of barrier island transgression is presented in a number of papers by Dubois (1990, 1995) in a multi- scaled integration of the coherence of beach morphology within a spatially-mobile and transgressing barrier island. Further, the opportunity for three-dimensional analysis of the barrier with ground-penetrating radar (Jol, et al., 1996) provides another perspective on morphological development. Whereas most of the geomorphological research is in the beach, dune, and nearshore region, McBride and Moslow (1991) treat processes and characteristics of offshore sand ridges which are spatially-related to the presence of inlets in the barrier island system along the East Coast and to sediment leakage from the ebb-tidal deltas as the barrier island system transgresses inland.

Coastal change caused by human interaction with natural processes adds another level of investigation (Walker, 1988; Nordstrom, forthcoming). Many studies provide examples of the localized human modifications that drive further human manipulative responses (Walker, 1990a; 1990b), often in association with structures in the water (Nakashima and Mossa, 1991; Psuty and Namikas, 1991) or with buildings (Jackson, et al., forthcoming).

The majority of studies have been directed toward sandy shorelines rather than bedrock or cliffed coasts. However, Lawrence and Davidson-Arnott (1997) examine erosion of a bluff and the adjacent submarine platform and several other studies examine shingle beaches (McKay and Terich, 1992; Sherman, et al., 1993) to determine changes in the spatial accumulations of the coarse materials

Despite the strong emphasis on modern day processes, there remains a thread of inquiry that harkens back to the roots of American coastal geomorphology and the identification of coastal features associated with paleolakes in the tradition of Gilbert and his classic study of Glacial Lake Bonneville (1890). Currey (1980) revisited much of the Gilbert’s study area and reported on the paleoshorelines and the modern shoreline in the vicinity of Great Salt Lake. He continues to develop the Quaternary sequences of shorelines in the interior basins (1990) at a variety of scales. Sack (1994, 1995) likewise carries on this field of inquiry.

Research into bays and estuaries has generated several major thrusts. Characteristics of beach/dune features of the lower energy estuarine environments in the northeastern U.S. have been a focus of Jackson and Nordstrom (1992), whereas Stone, et al. (1996) and Armbruster, et al. (1995) describe the responses of beaches on the inland margins of Gulf Coast barrier islands in association with the passage of hurricanes and cold fronts. Nordstrom (1992) has developed a comprehensive framework of the processes and responses appropriate to the beaches on shorelines of estuaries. He has also expanded into the broader ecological issues of estuarine systems (Nordstrom and Roman, 1996).

Estuarine-based research has considered issues of sedimentation and wetland development as part of the mix of sea-level rise and changing sediment availability. Reed (1990, 1995a) has focused on wetland characteristics and composition in coastal Louisiana, leading to models of wetland changes and adaptations on decadal time scales in association with varying sediment supply and relative sea- level rise rates. Kearney and Stevenson (1991) and Kearney (1996) have expanded the concepts of wetland deterioration associated with sediment deficits into decadal and centurial time. Psuty (1992a) has generated a model that relates vertical and horizontal displacements of wetlands to rates of sea-level rise and sediment delivery on centurial and longer time scales. In a different climatic context but in a similar sedimentation/sea-level relationship, Ellison (1993) and Ellison and Stoddart (1991) identify responses in mangrove communities. Important concepts that are emerging from these and similar investigations (Phillips, 1992, 1997) concern the non-linearity of the changes and the relaxation times inherent in any modification to a system that is exchanging sediment spatially and temporally.

A coastal paradox arises when considering the situation of increasing population in the coastal zone while it is generally recognized that most shorelines are eroding in the presence of sea-level rise and a negative sediment budget. The inevitable result is increased concern for the manifestations of human development, for the economic value, and for the amenities of the coast. This leads to heightened interest in coastal dynamics and to improved knowledge of shoreline change, rates of change, and forecasts of future shoreline positions. A common form of establishing shoreline erosion rates is to secure the oldest surveyed shoreline position (usually mapped in the mid-nineteenth century) and compare it with shorelines from aerial photos and recent surveys. Some of the modern geographic information system (GIS) registration techniques have led to improved comparisons of shorelines from historic maps and aerial photos. Further, the incorporation of kinematic global positioning system (GPS) shoreline determination into the matrix has resulted in the production of quality displays of shoreline change which together cover more than a century.

Whereas establishment of the displacement of the shoreline by this comparative means has value, there are hazards in extending the past trend into the future. Dolan, et al. (1991) and Fenster, et al. (1993) call attention to the episodic variation in shoreline position in many of the data sets based on relatively few points derived from historic data, and suggest that the sampling period will strongly influence the derived trend. Crowell, et al. (1997) agree with the problems associated with the use of a few data points and suggest that sea-level rise curves can be used as a surrogate for site-specific shoreline change rates. Obviously, there are complicating factors related to human manipulations of shoreline position which will also modify future trends, but that is a variable that could be woven into the fabric of analysis and could be another component of the application of this approach.

In the midst of a multitude of empirical observations of barrier island and estuarine change is the inescapable conclusion that the annual and decadal scales are non- linear, and that whereas many of the centurial time domains may have a trend there is a lot of scatter about any sort of trend line. Evidence continues to come forth regarding the difficulty of applying a narrow cause and effect relationship when the system itself is dynamic and sediment budgets are anything but constant.

In the original Geography in America volume, West (1989) indicated that coastal geomorphologists were strong in empiricism but needed to strengthen their contributions to the theory side of the subdiscipline. Coastal geomorphologists are still strong in data gathering and observational science, and that is a function of geomorphology. However, there has been a broadening perspective of conceptual themes and theoretical frameworks that will provide integrative vehicles for future efforts.

Marine Physical Geography

The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 defines the coastal zone, as a transition from land to the U.S. territorial sea, consisting mainly of the swash zone, bays, dunes, estuaries, intra-coastal developments and waterways, coastal wetlands, marshes and the like. But what of the open sea, often beyond sight of land? This is the domain of marine geography, the understanding and characterization of space, place, and pattern of the open water and ice found seaward of the coast. American geographers have contributed little to marine research until recent decades, although the first textbook of modern marine science, written by Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury of the U.S. Navy in 1855, was entitled The Physical Geography of the Sea. It was the post World War II exploitation of offshore resources, as well as the environmental movements of the 1960s arising from coastal population and industrial growth, that directed some geographers to open water (West, 1989).

The study of marine physical geography received a major boost in the 1990s with the rise of earth system science (ESS) (Williamson, 1990). The goal of ESS is to obtain a scientific understanding of the entire earth system (atmosphere, oceans, ice cover, biosphere, crust, and interior) on a global scale. ESS seeks to describe how component parts of the Earth and their interactions have evolved, how they function, and how they may be expected to continue evolving on all time scales (Nierenberg, 1992). The recent emphasis on ESS, particularly with regard to the oceans, stems from the realization that many of the Earth's resources are diminishing rapidly. A further factor is the growing awareness that an environmentally secure future requires a more integrated and coordinated approach towards understanding the consequences of global change, both for humanity and for managing global resources. Geographers have responded to these issues by broadening their focus beyond traditional boundaries.

Important emphases of ESS during the 1990s have been the study of synoptic weather patterns over the oceans, tracking and modeling of El Niño, mapping of water quality and pollution, and determination of various biophysical properties of the oceans, including temperature, chlorophyll pigments, suspended sediment, and salinity. Geographers involved in these studies have relied mainly on remote sensing techniques (see the chapter on Remote Sensing) that are often ground truthed with vessels at sea. For example, Siegel and Michaels (1996) have evaluated the role of light in the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, silica, phosphorous and sulfur in the upper ocean. Their shipboard data have provided an "optical link" to global ocean color imagery derived from the SeaWifs satellite sensor (Garver et al., 1994). Lubin et al. (1994) and Ricchiazzi and Gautier (1998) have assessed the impact of seasonal ozone depletion on the intensity of surface radiation in the Antarctic and how this affects the ecology of the Southern Ocean. Geographers have participated in numerous field campaigns to Palmer Station, Antarctica to determine the ecological processes linking annual pack ice extent to biological dynamics of different trophic levels (Smith et al., 1998). Pack ice may be a major physical factor affecting the structure and function of polar biota at all levels of the food chain, from single-celled primary producers to seabirds (Stammerjohn et al., 1996). Washburn et al. (1998) have used high frequency radio radar to map ocean surface currents to interpret changes in the populations of various marine species. Schweizer and Gautier (1997) have launched an ambitious series of multimedia educational materials and workshops on El Niño, replete with both multispectral satellite imagery and shipboard sea surface temperature maps.

ESS has also played a role in the creation of the Ridge Interdisciplinary Global Experiments (RIDGE) program, a successful research initiative of the U.S. National Science Foundation in the 1990s, and to be continued into the next century. RIDGE was launched in response to the growing realization that knowledge of the global mid-ocean ridge (seafloor- spreading centers) is fundamental to the understanding of key processes in a multitude of disciplines: marine biology, geochemistry, physical oceanography, geophysics, and geology (National Research Council, 1988). This has prompted several major coordinated experiments on the seafloor, involving multiple arrays of instruments (Wright, forthcoming) for the study of geological, physical, chemical, and biological processes within and above the seafloor (Detrick and Humphris, 1994). The resulting data range from measurements of temperature and chemistry of hydrothermal vent fluids and plumes, to the microtopography of underwater volcanoes, to the magnitudes and depths of earthquakes beneath the seafloor, to the biodiversity of hydrothermal vent fauna. Geographers have been involved in the first implementations of GIS to support these investigations both at sea and onshore (Wright, 1996), as well as in the development of a long- term scientific information management infrastructure for the data (Wright et al., 1997). The current state- of-the-art in marine (and coastal) applications of GIS is presented in Wright and Bartlett (forthcoming), an international collaborative effort between geographers and oceanographers, geodetic scientists, computer scientists, and coastal managers.

The International Year of the Ocean (1998), sponsored by the United Nations, has called attention to an increasing need for investigations into deep ocean, island, and coastal management, all in the context of ESS. Specifically, Chapter 17 of the 1992 U. N. Conference on Environment and Development’s Agenda 21 report calls for the assessment and management of fisheries, a de facto guarantee of biodiversity protection (Vallega, forthcoming). Kracker (forthcoming) has quantified aquatic landscapes via a traditional landscape ecology approach, incorporating underwater acoustic remote sensing techniques in determining abundance and distribution patterns for regions of intensive fish production.

Human Geographic Research in Coastal and Marine Areas

The 1990s were a period in which the ocean and coastal areas became an increasingly significant object of study for human geographers interested in policy, resource management, and development issues. Complementing the extensive work on coastal hazards conducted by physical geographers, a number of geographers turned their attention to the human aspects of hazard creation, risk assessment, environmental perception, mitigation policies, and evacuation procedures (Baker, 1995; Platt, 1995; Clark et al., 1998; Dow and Cutter, 1998; Dow, forthcoming). A smaller body of research was produced on marine hazards associated with shipping (Dow, forthcoming) and resource extraction (Argent and O’Riordan, 1995).

The ever-increasing size of ships and the tightness of their schedules has led to an interest in the attendant changes in the shipping industry, the viability of individual ports, and the implications of transportation space’s transformation into one seamless surface of intermodal transportation flows. A number of geographers have researched the impacts of containerization and shipping industry organization on port location and related industries (Slack, 1993; Slack et al., 1996). Other geographers have placed changes in shipping technology and shipping regulations within the overall history of change in the global political-economic system (Hugill, 1993; Steinberg, 1998).

A secondary effect of containerization has been the abandonment of downtown ports in favor of a small number of very large, capital-intensive ports. This has led to urban decay in old port areas and to issues in waterfront renewal. Research has focused on political-economic forces that drive renewal programs (Kilian and Dodson, 1995; DeFilippis, 1997) as well as representations of maritime life in the marketplaces and maritime festivals that are often the centerpieces of waterfront renewal projects (Goss, 1996; Kilian and Dodson, 1996; Atkinson and Laurier, 1998; Laurier, 1998; Steinberg, forthcoming- a).

Whereas tourism-promotion is a pressing issue for the nation’s decaying urban waterfronts, it is also a concern in other coastal and marine spaces. With tourism's rise as a global industry, the development and marketing of coastal and marine recreation spaces has taken a leading role in many countries’ development strategies. In some instances, tourists are encouraged to enjoy the ocean and its resources from the vantage point of a beach, in other instances from a cruise ship, and in other instances from the underwater perspective of the scuba diver. Contributors to Wong’s (1993) volume discuss how coastal recreation both reflects and impacts local environments. Trist (forthcoming) uses political ecology to analyze the images of the Caribbean Sea promoted by the marine tourism industry and the various demands of yachting, cruise ships, and diving on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, while Laurier (forthcoming) focuses on the perceptions of the ocean held by recreational yachters.

This cultural turn in the study of coastal and marine tourism is part of a larger trend wherein the sea is becoming an increasingly popular topic for scholars who utilize a combination of cultural geography, cultural ecology, political economy, political ecology, and/or discourse analysis to interpret the ways various cultures perceive the sea and allocate access to its diverse resources (Zerner and Thorburn, forthcoming; Young, forthcoming). Recently, this perspective has been joined with one that emphasizes the ocean as a "socially constructed" space that is discursively and materially constructed by societies as they use the ocean. Proponents of this constructivist view stress that the ever-changing social construction of ocean-space serves to limit and enable further social uses of the ocean (Jackson, 1995; Steinberg, forthcoming-b).

Along with this fusing of political geography and cultural geography, there has been a continuation of research in the "classical" political geographic tradition, centering primarily on marine boundaries and international conventions that regulate exploitation of the ocean’s resources (Earney, 1990; Glassner, 1990; Blake, 1992). Schug (1996) fuses the political geographic study of marine boundaries with the insights of political ecology in his study of coastal livelihoods bordering the Torres Strait.

Coastal zone management was also a popular subject in the 1990s. Although some of the decade’s leading works have been authored outside the discipline (Clark, 1998) or by geographers outside North America (Smith and Vallega, 1991), American geographers have contributed a historical dimension to the study of coastal zone management (Meyer-Arendt, 1992) as well as a critical analysis of integrated coastal management (Nichols, forthcoming).

Reaching Out

There is a natural affinity between CoMa and the Coastal Commission of the International Geographical Union. Whereas the IGU Coastal Commission has a broad topical range, most of CoMa’s involvement has been in the realm of coastal geomorphology and in commission leadership. Norbert P. Psuty was the vice-chair (1984- 1992) and chair (1992-1994) of the Coastal Commission, and he was editor of its semi-annual newsletter (1984-1996). Douglas J. Sherman is presently on the board of the IGU Coastal Commission. Among commission products contributed by CoMa members were the Coastal Geomorphology Bibliography, 1986-1990 (Sherman, 1992), the Journal of Coastal Research (JCR) special issue on dune/beach interaction (Psuty, 1988), the special section in the JCR on wetlands (Reed, 1995b), and the special issue of the Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie on rapid coastal changes (Kelletat and Psuty, 1996). The IGU/CoMa collaborative effort should get a boost in the future as a result of the OCEANS program, an IGU initiative dedicated to cooperation with UNESCO’s International Oceanographic Commission (Vallega, forthcoming).

Further, the CoMa geomorphologists are active in the quadrennial conference of the International Association of Geomorphologists and have contributed to several of the followup publications (Paskoff and Kelletat, 1991; Sherman and Bauer, 1993a). They are represented in publications from two major coastal geomorphological symposia: Coastal Sediments ’91 (Kraus, et al., 1991); and Large Scale Coastal Behavior ’93 (List, 1993). Recently, Paul A. Gares and Douglas J. Sherman organized the 1998 Binghamton Symposium in Geomorphology with the theme of coastal geomorphology. Of the presentations, slightly under half were by CoMa members.

Other major initiatives undertaken by CoMa members include a 1999 focus section of The Professional Geographer on ocean-space (Steinberg, forthcoming-b) and a volume on marine and coastal GIS (Wright and Bartlett, forthcoming).

Future Opportunities

There are numerous research agendas remaining in coastal physical, marine physical, and human geography. In coastal physical topics, human manipulation of coastal topography and sediment budget are probably underappreciated and subsumed as a small perturbation in either the instantaneous time scale or that of the Holocene or longer. However, many of the contemporary issues in applied coastal geomorphology are part of the decadal, up to centurial time scale. This is the time scale of interest to humans and the time scale that they influence. Recognition of the scale of change that is possible within this range and the influence of humans, therefore, is a task with strong feedback relationships.

Many of the physical geography research products are addressing the non-linear nature of change in the marine and coastal zone, whether it be sea-level rise, sediment delivery, storminess, human intervention, nutrient flux, biomass production, etc. This is in recognition of the need for an improved understanding of the importance of scale in any inquiry and the bringing together of instantaneous models with developmental history models. Consideration of the non- linear nature of natural processes contributes to the understanding of the oscillations of resources in a management context. Increasingly, there must be more recognition of the spatial/temporal role of humans in affecting aspects of the coastal and marine system.

There are many unsolved issues in the effective management, visualization and analysis of marine and coastal data, particularly with regard to GIS. Geographers must continue to undertake studies that are more quantitative in nature, to formulate and test basic hypotheses about the marine and coastal environment, and to collaborate not only with other sciences, but with geographers working in corollary subdisciplines (e.g., remote sensing, GIS, geomorphology, etc.). Despite the proliferation of remotely-sensed data from space, marine research at sea will continue to be extremely costly, both in research dollars and time spent at previously inaccessible study sites. It will therefore be important for geographers to continue fostering interdisciplinary relationships with classically-trained oceanographers, ocean engineers, and marine policy specialists to secure a broader sense of community with these scholars.

Finally, human geographers are expanding their productivity in marine and coastal issues in many of the traditional areas, while also testing their skills in uncharted waters. The areas of hazards, tourism, and trade remain major research domains, but they have been joined by an increasing emphasis on issues of culture, representation, and resource-competition. These new directions in coastal and marine geography do not so much supplant the more traditional lines of research as they complement them, and there should be a body of literature developing in the next decade that fuses traditional with innovative perspectives into an improved analytical understanding of the complex social and human- environmental interactions that transpire in coastal and marine systems.


(for a comprehensive bibliography please see

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