Mass wasting, the movement of material downslope by gravity, occurs as slopes evolve toward stable, equilibrium forms. Active coastal slopes are often in short rather than long-term stability, because of wave undercutting, oversteepening, and the removal of basal debris. For convenience, a distinction is made in this discussion between the types of mass wasting that occur on rock and cohesive clay coasts. Some slope movements occur on both types of coast, however, and many cliffs consist of variable combinations of rock and clay. Nevertheless, translational slides and the free fall of material from steep slopes tend to be typical of rock coasts, whereas deep rotational slumps and shallower slides and flows of wet material are more common on cohesive clay coasts (Trenhaile 1987, 1997; Sunamura 1992; Viles and Spencer 1995).
Fresh rock surfaces and the presence of debris at the foot of cliffs testify to the importance of rock falls on many coasts. Although they occur more...
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