Shoreline Mapping Techniques


  • Laura J. Moore


Aerial photography, cartography, photogrammetry, shoreline change, erosion rates, coastal mapping


Numerous coastal mapping techniques have been developed over the last twenty-seven years (STAFFORD, 1971; DOLAN et al., 1978; FISHER and SIMPSON, 1979; LEATHERMAN, 1983; McBRIDE et al., 1991; THIELER and DANFORTH, 1994a, OVERTON et al., 1996). These techniques, used to measure shoreline erosion, barrier island migration, and dune erosion, vary in approach, accuracy, expense and training/time requirements.

Some of the more recent coastal mapping techniques apply advances in cartography and photogrammetry providing high-resolution measurements with less error than manual methods that use a photographic comparator or stereo zoom transfer scope. However, such techniques are expensive, require extensive training, and may take longer than manual methods. While many coastal mapping studies would benefit from these advanced techniques, not all studies require the high resolution these more recent techniques offer.

When beginning a coastal mapping project or choosing to upgrade laboratory facilities, researching established coastal mapping techniques before choosing from among them requires extensive literature review. To assist researchers, engineers and planners who wish to undertake a coastal mapping project, this paper provides an overview of the errors associated with shoreline mapping, and a discussion of factors to be considered when selecting a coastal mapping technique.