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The geomorphology and controls on development of a boulder-strewn rock platform, NW Ireland


, : The geomorphology and controls on development of a boulder-strewn rock platform, NW Ireland.

A boulder-strewn rock platform on an Atlantic-facing coastline in Gweebarra Bay, NW Ireland, is examined using an integrated geomorphological, ecological and geotechnical methodology. Here, a steep granite shore platform is cut by intersecting subvertical and subhorizontal fractures and shows a clear biological and geomorphological zonation associated with level within the tidal frame. Minimum surface strength values of the bedrock platform (as derived from Schmidt hammer tests) corresponds to the supralittoral zone, which is dominated by Ramalina siliquosa. Bedrock surface strength increases into the littoral zone, which is characterized by a succession through Verrucaria maura, Semibalanus balanoides and Mytilus edulis communities. Granite boulders in the upper intertidal zone are clustered and stacked into ridges that have a consistent spacing and northeast-southwest alignment. Boulders within the ridges are imbricated, stacked, and have west-facing dips. Boulder surface strength is higher on northwest-facing ridge sides than on southeast-facing sides, and is higher at the landward than seaward ridge end. Variations in surface weathering across the platform show where blocks have been recently removed by storms. Pulverized bedrock and boulder surfaces show where boulders have knocked into each other and been dragged across the platform by backwash. It is likely that such boulder features are formed and destroyed on decadal or shorter time scales.

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