High-resolution historical (1942) and recent (1994) digital terrain models were derived from aerial photographs along the Big Sur coastline in central California to measure the long-term volume of material that enters the nearshore environment. During the 52-year measurement time period, an average of 21 000 ± 3100 m3 km−1 a−1 of material was eroded from nine study sections distributed along the coast, with a low yield of 1000 ± 240 m3 km−1 a−1 and a high of 46 700 ± 7300 m3 km−1 a−1.
The results compare well with known volumes from several deep-seated landslides in the area and suggest that the processes by which material is delivered to the coast are episodic in nature. In addition, a number of parameters are investigated to determine what influences the substantial variation in yield along the coast. It is found that the magnitude of regional coastal landslide sediment yield is primarily related to the physical strength of the slope-forming material.
Coastal Highway 1 runs along the lower portion of the slope along this stretch of coastline, and winter storms frequently damage the highway. The California Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining this scenic highway while minimizing the impacts to the coastal ecosystems that are part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This study provides environmental managers with critical background data on the volumes of material that historically enter the nearshore from landslides, as well as demonstrating the application of deriving historical digital terrain data to model landscape evolution. Published in 2005 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.