You probably already know that, throughout the course of the day, the ocean’s tide changes. In the morning the ocean recedes and a large portion of the beach is exposed but, by nightfall the ocean has crept back in and covered what was once exposed.

This phenomenon is an example of shoreline change and it is an important element to monitor because changes in the shoreline can affect things like coastal erosion, natural resources, and more. GIS technology plays a key role in monitoring shoreline change.

Valuable Uses for GIS Technology

Geographic information system technology, or GIS, is the software used to gather, analyze and store geographic data. It can be used to track everything from population sizes to weather patterns. Another important use for GIS technology is related to geographical changes. With GIS technology, researchers can gather important data about the environment and monitor any changes in the environment over time. By monitoring changes in things like climate, sea level, pollution, and erosion, researchers can help to prevent potential problems from happening.


Figure 1: Sea Level Monitoring

For example, when using GIS technology to monitor sea level in a particular area, researchers might discover that a nearby community might be affected by rising water levels. Using the information gathered with GIS technology, the researchers can then plan a way to prevent the problem to keep that community safe. If nothing can be done to stop the problem, at least the community will be given adequate warning before the situation becomes dangerous.

What is Shoreline Change Monitoring?

Over the course of time, shorelines change – they change in small ways over the course of the day, and in large ways over the course of years or decades. Changes in shorelines may be the result of several factors including erosion and accretion. Erosion is the wearing away of soil or rock while accretion is the opposite – it is the adding of layers.


Figure 2: Shoreline Change

Shoreline change monitoring refers to the act of keeping track of changes in shorelines over time. Measuring the difference between past and present shorelines can help researches to predict future changes in the shoreline – these predictions are important for preservation of natural resources and for identifying potentially dangerous situations for citizens.

Applications of GIS for Shoreline Monitoring

GIS technology plays a key role in monitoring shorelines. This software can be used to map the current location of the shoreline and then researchers can add layers for previous shorelines to visualize the change that occurred over a certain period of time.


Figure 3: Shoreline Change Monitoring

In addition to mapping changes in the shoreline, GIS technology can also be used to monitor the things that affect those changes. Wave activity for example, can be monitored with GIS mapping of ocean currents and sea levels. Wind maps can be used to predict changes in tide and weather tracking can be used to predict changes in sea level. All of these technologies combined can be used to monitor and predict changes in the shoreline.


By monitoring shoreline changes, researchers can help to identify problems contributing to environmental damage. With the help of GIS technology, researchers can also predict future damage and take steps to prevent it from happening.