A coastline is the area where land meets the sea or the ocean. This is a dynamic and complex environment that is constantly changing due to natural conditions and human activities. When the coast deteriorates, we call that phenomenon ‘erosion’. This may be caused by storms, high waves, sea-level rise and strong wind, or human activities on the coast (e.g. construction). In contrast, when sediment accumulates on the coast we use the term ‘accretion’. This may occur due to the specific structure and orientation of the coastline, the seabed bathymetry and the prevailing weather conditions.
Our ‘Map of the week’ provides information about the state of the European coastline regarding erosion (in red), accretion (in green) and undetectable change (in yellow). The map illustrates that the Northern coastline is suffering from erosion. Climate change increased coastal degradation and has a serious impact on the environment and on urbanised areas (e.g. increasing flooding, loss of habitat for animal species, etc.).
In Southern Norway and Sweden, however, the coastline is much more stable in the same period, as shown on the map. The criterion used to determine a stable or very minor change is where the coastline displays only a 0.5 metre net change, or less, per year over a 10-year period.
When we talk about mapped coastline, it is interesting to note that it might not always match the ‘official’ coastline (you will see this if you zoom in on the map). This is not a mistake. Indeed, the coastline is not a ‘line’ and, as mentioned before, its behaviour changes over time. The coastline map reflects the conditions and structure from a previous time, which often differs from the present-day situation. A more complete article on that subject can be found on the EMODnet Geology portal.
Data displayed in this map were provided by EMODnet Geology.
 This map was produced in June 2011 and updated most recently in August 2016.