The rocky coast of Australia has been the focus of scientific enquiry since Charles Darwin visited Sydney during the voyage of the Beagle (1831–1836). As the philosophy of geomorphological enquiry has evolved from Davisian landscape theory to modern questions of landscape response to climate change, so has the understanding of Australian shore platforms. Early work was focused on penultimate levels of coastal planation; however, the majority of research has focused on the balance between marine and subaerial erosion in forming shore platforms. As field instrumentation has advanced there has been a greater variety of data available to researchers which has led to studies of microerosion and the distribution of wave energy across platform surfaces. Platforms formed in Quaternary carbonates and volcanics as well as Mesozoic sediments have been the focus of research. Those found in softer carbonates form closer to low-tide level while those in resistant basalt form at high-tide elevation. Rock hardness and structure are the primary drivers of platform morphology; however at an individual field site the surface morphology, such as the presence of a ramp, will be determined by the balance between wave and subaerial processes as well as local variations in lithology.
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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.