Mexican Beach Sands: Composition and Vulnerability

  • Arturo Carranza-EdwardsEmail author
  • Leticia Rosales-Hoz
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 24)


Prior to any design in the beach environment such as urban construction in dune areas, or the creation of fixed or dynamic barriers that cause undesirable deposition or erosion in the coastal zone, it is essential to have knowledge of beach particle size, sediment transport and composition of the unconsolidated material associated with the relief of the coastal plain. Among the tools for handling beaches it is essential to know the variations that control the beach characteristics. The increasing of ocean acidification that is taking place in the last years is another factor to be considered, as it can contribute to the mortality of calcareous organisms that often are natural constituents on the beaches. The main objective of this chapter is to provide basic and applied knowledge of beaches. Traditionally the main components used to classify the composition of beach sands include quartz, feldspar and rock fragments. Other components taken into consideration are terrigenous, biogenic, autígenos, chert, mica and heavy minerals. The seventeen coastal states of Mexico covering more than 11,000 kilometers long, show a lot of variations in morphology as are beaches with semi-protected pocket waves and longshore currents as is common in the South Mexican Pacific and portions of the Sea of ​​Cortez, opposite to vast coastal rectilinear beaches receiving the onslaught waves. In contrast, the Yucatan Peninsula consists of lowland calcareous composition which includes biogenic sediments and sometimes some rocks associated with beaches that being compacted and lithified really consist of rocky coastline that cannot be called a beach, since its requirement is that is unconsolidated material. This paper presents the different beach composition found in Mexico, their classification, characteristics such as relief, lithology, coastal plain size, weather, anthropic influence, etc. It emphasizes that beach sands must not be treated for study as rocks, because in them the siliceous or carbonate in the past were quartz or calcareous detritus. Resistance to transport, waves and longshore currents are very variable. Examples of variables that affect the compositional nature of the beaches sands are: (i) the climate allows preservation of feldspars as in some beaches of the Peninsula of Baja California, (ii) the wide and smooth relief of the coastal plain produce quartz’s particles often of smaller size and (iii) beaches lithology associated with basic or intermediate rocks are not good potential producers of quartz. This chapter shows some regions of Mexico which are more variable to the rising sea level of the sea and some recommendations on field work are made.


Beach sands Mexico Texture Composition Littoral sands Handling beaches 



Our gratitude to the authorities of the National Autonomous University of Mexico for the support given in the institutional long-term project entitled sedimentology of Mexican beaches. We are in debt with the authorities of the University of Colima for their kind invitation to participate in this work. To M. in Sc. Eduardo Morales, the QFB Susana Santiago and Mr. Ricardo Martinez for their support and to the many students and colleagues whose collaboration was also very valuable. Potter P.E. from Cincinnati University and Williams R. from Sussex University for their advices during different stages of this work. In memory of Dr. Alejandro Yañez-Arancibia whose abundant and brilliant work in environmental sciences and friendship are unforgettable.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Unidad Académica de Procesos Oceánicos y Costeros, Laboratorio de Sedimentología. Ciudad UniversitariaCiudad de MéxicoMexico

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