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Department of Geography

  • Geomorphological study on gravel beaches in the Maltese Islands 

A joint research collaboration between the Department of Geography (Faculty of Arts) and the Physical Oceanography Research Group within the Department of Geosciences, has led to a first published study on sediment geodynamics of Maltese gravel beaches in a leading international journal, Marine Geology (Elsevier).

The paper, titled ‘Pocket beach sediment: A field investigation of the geodynamic processes of coarse-clastic beaches on the Maltese Islands (Central Mediterranean)’, is the result of a four-year study, led by the Department of Geography, with geographer and part-time member of staff, Sephora Sammut, leading the research with the supervision of physical geography lecturer Ritienne Gauci

The research on Maltese gravel beaches provides insights on the local coupling mechanisms between beach sediment behaviour and nearshore marine processes.  In the paper, Sephora Sammut et al. surveyed four beaches with distinct geological lithologies, coastal configurations and variable wave exposures. Field data were collected on beach morphology, sediment size and shape properties to account for both seasonal and post-storm trends. Sediment tracer experiments were also carried out to determine the major transport pathways and recoveries of gravel beach sediments.

Such an in-depth investigation was also possible thanks to the collaborative support of the Physical Oceanography Research Group with co-authors Professor Aldo Drago, Adam Gauci and Dr Joel Azzopardi providing SWAN wave modelling information to investigate further such mechanisms. The use of the SWAN wave model provided a clearer insight on the local wave parameters that influence sediment dynamics at specific temporal scales. Wave exposure, geological background and coastal configuration were found to be important components in coarse-clastic pocket beach behaviour. Such a study has important implications for better coastal management policies, especially in further understanding how gravel sediment on Maltese beaches may operate in response to different spatio-temporal trends, including long-term climate change effects such as intensive storms surges and rising sea levels. 

The full paper is available here [PDF]. The work will also be presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly, 23 - 28 April 2017, Vienna (Austria).

Gravel Beaches 

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