An abundance of moisture, salts and organic life make rock coasts a unique weathering environment. Here, mechanical and chemical processes act to break down rocks alongside the influence of waves, tides and geological factors. Organisms concurrently break down (bioweathering and bioerosion) and protect (bioprotection) coastal rocks in direct and indirect ways, enhancing or impeding other inorganic modes of decay. Some species also build physical structures (bioconstruction) that have geomorphological and ecological consequences. Studies of particular weathering processes are well represented in the British Isles, and demonstrate both the overriding controls of lithology and tidal position. The complexities arising from the interactive and combined influences of different processes are also evident. Biogenic processes are of greatest importance for the geomorphology of carbonate rock coasts and cohesive shores in Britain and Ireland, but weathering is largely secondary to waves in the evolution of harder rock coasts. The importance of typically fine-scale rock breakdown in facilitating larger-scale erosion is recognized, however, but warrants more attention, and the value of interdisciplinary and applied weathering research on rock coasts is stressed.
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Rocky landforms dominate large portions of the world's coast. Cliffs and shore platforms form spectacular landscapes, yet when compared to other landforms they are relatively unstudied with many contemporary controversies dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. The past decade has seen a reinvigoration of research driven by advances in technology that now enable precise measurements of erosion to the micron scale and quantification of wave energy onto and through cliff edifices to be made, as well as being able to directly date rock surfaces. In order to integrate this diverse range of research this volume's regional approach first integrates the latest data with longstanding theory and then analyses this research through the boundary conditions that exist in each area. The volume brings together the research leaders in the field; includes chapters on nearly all the major rock coasts of the world and identifies future research needs.