Coastal landscapes evolve over wide-ranging spatial and temporal scales in response to physical and biological processes that interact with a wide range of variables. To develop better predictive models for these dynamic areas, we must understand the influence of these variables on coastal morphologies and ultimately how they influence coastal processes. This study defines the influence of geologic framework variability on a classic mixed-energy coastline, and establishes four categorical scales of spatial and temporal influence on the coastal system. The near-surface, geologic framework was delineated using high-resolution seismic profiles, shallow vibracores, detailed geomorphic maps, historical shorelines, aerial photographs, and existing studies, and compared to the long- and short-term development of two coastal compartments near Charleston, South Carolina.
Although it is clear that the imprint of a mixed-energy tidal and wave signal (basin-scale) dictates formation of drumstick barriers and that immediate responses to wave climate are dramatic, island size, position, and longer-term dynamics are influenced by a series of inherent, complex near-surface stratigraphic geometries. Major near-surface Tertiary geometries influence inlet placement and drainage development (island-scale) through multiple interglacial cycles and overall channel morphology (local-scale). During the modern marine transgression, the halo of ebb-tidal deltas greatly influence inlet region dynamics, while truncated beach ridges and exposed, differentially erodable Cenozoic deposits in the active system influence historical shoreline dynamics and active shoreface morphologies (block-scale). This study concludes that the mixed-energy imprint of wave and tide theories dominates general coastal morphology, but that underlying stratigraphic influences on the coast provide site-specific, long-standing imprints on coastal evolution.