Landform and stability mapping

Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool

The Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool can be accessed here

One of the expected impacts from climate change is accelerated coastal erosion due to rising sea levels, although rates and location of erosion are highly dependent on several factors including:

  • the inherent susceptibility of differing coastal landform types
  • regional variations in the processes driving erosion or instability (for example, sea-level rise and wave climate)
  • local factors such as topography and sediment budgets.

The inherent susceptibility of landform types is of first-order importance in assessing coastal vulnerability. The creation of a detailed map of coastal landform types the coastal geomorphology can provide an understanding of the potential risk from erosion or other types of instability, for example cliff slumping (i.e. when rock or loose material move down a slope).

Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool

For the first time, the geomorphological attributes of the entire Australian coastline have been brought together in a single tool. The Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool provides detailed information on coastal landform types or 'geomorphology' of Australia's coast.

The landforms of the coastal zone are described in terms of the landform types found in three shore-parallel tidally-defined zones.
The landforms of the coastal zone are described in terms
of the landform types found in three shore-parallel
tidally-defined zones.

As a 'geomorphic' map, the topography of the coast (the planform, elevation and shape of the coastal landform) is captured as simple categories, and it also indicates what the differing coastal landforms are made of – varying rock types, coral, sand, mud, laterite, boulders and bedrock.

The two figures demonstrate how landform attributes are captured and displayed in the Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool. The mapping captures the geomorphology information in a single GIS polyline representing the shore (usually a nominal mean high water mark line). The line is split into segments wherever the coastal landforms change and each distinctive segment is assigned with multiple attribute fields (data records) that describe the landform types of that segment of the coast. Landform attributes of the coastal zone are captured both inland and offshore up to 500 metres from the high water level.

The data for the geomorphology mapping was derived from over 200 pre-existing maps and datasets, many compiled at different times, scales, for different purposes, and using different classification systems. Landform data was obtained from many sources and reclassified into a single nationally-consistent format.

More information and manual on Smartline Coastal Geomorphic Mapping Tool.

About the Smartline mapping

Simplified examples of information provided by four of the basic geomorphic attributes in the geomorphology line map 
(LH four line maps), and an example of a coastal landform stability class that has been derived by analysing these geomorphic attributes (RH line map).
Simplified examples of information provided by four of
the basic geomorphic attributes in the geomorphology line
map (LH four line maps), and an example of a coastal
landform stability class that has been derived by analysing
these geomorphic attributes (RH line map).

The map format and classification is based on a GIS line map format, termed the "Smartline", and because of the essentially linear nature of the coasts has some advantages over other mapping formats. These include the ability to allow rapid capture of multiple-attribute information which can be very spatially-detailed in the along-shore direction, and the ability to be readily interrogated (e.g., by GIS queries) to provide a wide range of information, such as the identification of sensitive ("potentially unstable") shoreline segments.

Further investment in geomorphic mapping

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has also commissioned Geoscience Australia to develop a coastal landform dataset to map the spatial extent of landform types. The dataset will be different to the Smartline mapping as it will be in polygonal, rather than line, format.

The Smartline mapping was done in a line format to allow different landform attribute fields to be displayed or analysed easily. Because of the essentially linear nature of the coasts a line map is a useful and efficient map format, but there are some applications where polygonal (or topographic) mapping is required. For example, while a coastal geomorphology line map can indicate potentially flood-prone areas (such through the Backshore profile attribute), a contour map or DEM is necessary to map the actual areas likely to be inundated.

a polygonal mapping image, Credit: Geoscience Australia

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