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Term Definition

A strip of land of indefinite width (may be several kilometers) that extends from the shoreline inland to the first major change in terrain features. The part of a country regarded as near the coast.

Coastal Area

The land and sea area bordering the shoreline. An entity of land and water affected by the biological and physical processes of both the sea and land and defined broadly for the purpose of managing the use of natural resources.

Coastal Defense

General term used to encompass both coast protection against erosion and sea defense against flooding.

Coastal Erosion

The wearing away of coastal lands, usually by wave attack, tidal or littoral currents, or wind. Coastal erosion is synonymous with shoreline (vegetation line) retreat.

Coastal Strip

A zone directly adjacent to the waterline, where only coast related activities take place. Usually this is a strip of some 100 m wide. In this strip, coastal defense activities take place. In this strip often there may be restrictions to land use.

Coastal Zone

The transition zone where the land meets water; the region that is directly influenced by marine hydrodynamic processes. Extends offshore to the continental shelf break and onshore to the first major change in topography above the reach of major storm waves.

Coastal Zone Management

The integrated and general development of the coastal zone. Coastal Zone Management is not restricted to coastal defense works, but includes also coastal development in economical, ecological and social terms.


The line that forms the boundary between the coast and the shore. Commonly referred to as the line that forms the boundary between the land and the water (especially the water of a sea or ocean, also called the shoreline).

Continental Shelf

The zone bordering a continent extending from the line of permanent immersion to the depth, usually about 100 m to 200 m, where there is a marked or rather steep descent toward the great depths of the ocean. The region of the oceanic bottom that extends outward from the shoreline, with an average slope of less than 1:100, to a line where the gradient begins to exceed 1:40 (the continental slope).

Continental Slope

The declivity from the offshore border of the continental shelf to oceanic depths. It is characterized by a marked increase in slope.

Coral Reef

A coral-algal mound or ridge of in-place coral colonies and skeletal fragments, carbonate sand, and organically-secreted calcium carbonate. A coral reef is built up around a wave-resistant framework, usually of older coral colonies. Extensive limestone structures built largely by corals. They occur primarily in shallow tropical and provide habitat for a large variety of other marine life forms.

Crest Length

The length of a wave along its crest. Sometimes called crest width.

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