Many different kinds of classification have been applied to coasts in attempts to characterize dominant features in terms of physical or biological properties, modes of evolution, or geographic occurrence. Some of the earlier general classifications were broad in scope but lacked specificity while other specialized systems were narrowly focused, providing uneven coverage of taxonomic units for coastlines of the world. Due to more comprehensive study of coasts and the increasing availability of information, especially digital formats in GIS frameworks, integrated and systematic approaches to coastal classification are favored. The complex demands of today require sophisticated solutions to overlapping and interrelated problems in the littoral, as facilitated by organization of biophysical parameters into a coherent whole or universal scheme. The developmental approach to a new comprehensive classification system is thus proposed for the coastal fringe, a swath zone 5 to 10 km wide across the shoreline, which incorporates all important parameters necessary to categorize geomorphic units that can be mapped at meaningful scales. Consideration of coastal geomorphological properties are the theme of this approximation toward a modern taxonomic system where morphostructures are the unifying links that facilitate transition from one hierarchical level to another. The proposed approach employs differentiating criteria for hard rock (automorphic) and soft rock (allomorphic) coasts which are divided by chronometric parameters related to the antiquity of littoral landforms. Other levels of primary differentia include geodynamic-climatomorphogenic process zones, relief types (morphoregions), morphogenetic relief features, and relief elements and genetically homogeneous surfaces. Morphotypes are lower level taxons that provide examples of ingressional, egressional, and complex process-forms. The proposal for a unified system requires testing in the field and mapping at myriametric scales to update subsequent approximations.
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Vol. 20 • No. 1