Wave-cut platform

Wave-cut platform

A wave-cut platform, or shore platform is the narrow flat area often seen at the base of a sea cliff or along a large lake shore caused by the action of the waves. It forms after destructive waves hit against the cliff face, causing undercutting between the high and low water marks, mainly as a result of corrasion and hydraulic power, creating a wave-cut notch. This notch then enlarges into a cave. The waves undermine this portion until the roof of the cave cannot hold due to the pressure and freeze-thaw weathering acting on it, and collapses, resulting in the cliff retreating landward. The base of the cave forms the wave-cut platform as attrition causes the collapsed material to be broken down into smaller pieces, while some cliff material may be washed into the sea. This may be deposited at the end of the platform, forming an off-shore terrace. Where the coastline itself is changing due to seismic action, there may be a series of platforms showing earlier sea levels and indicating the amount of uplift caused by various earthquakes.

Because of the continual wave action, a wave-cut platform represents an extremely hostile environment and only the toughest of organisms can utilize such a niche.

Wavecut platforms are often most obvious at low tide when they become visible as huge areas of flat rock. Sometimes the landward side of the platform is covered by sand, forming the beach, and then the platform can only be identified at low tides or when storms move the sand.

Ancient wavecut platforms provide evidence of past sea and lake levels. Raised and abandoned platforms, sometimes found behind modern beaches, are evidence of higher sea levels in the geological past, and have been used to identify areas of isostatic adjustment. By using scientific dating methods, or examination of marine fossils found on the platform, it is possible to work out when the platform was formed, thus giving geographers and geologists information about sea levels at known times in the past. This has been used in the United Kingdom and other previously glaciated areas to calculate the rate at which land is rising now that it is no longer covered in ice.


According to Trenhaile (1987)and Sunamura (1992) "the term 'Wave Cut Platform' should no longer be used as it assumes that shore platforms are the result of wave action, which is not always true. Shore Platforms are clearly erosional features that develop when erosion of a rocky coast and the subsequent removal of the debris by waves and currents leave behind the erosional surface." (Masselink and Hughes, 2003)

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