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Beaches and Coasts.

Beaches and Coasts by Richard A. Davis, Jr. and Duncan M. FitzGerald, Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 2004, xi + 419 pp., cloth US$79.95 (ISBN 0-632-034308-3)

Beaches and Coasts is one of several recently published books on coastal environments and had the potential of competing with, or standing above, its contemporaries. Its broad coverage is commendable (including topics that are frequently neglected, e.g., reef coasts, glaciated coasts and sediments and rocks). It contains twenty-one chapters, approximately double its peer group, with chapters on topics often not addressed separately (e.g., Chapter 12: Tidal inlets and Chapter 13: Intertidal flats). The opening chapters deal with background topics such as plate tectonics and rock structures followed by chapters covering specific coastal environments, features and processes; the book concludes with a chapter discussing the human interaction with coastal dynamics. Some chapters are unique, such as the examination of 'Weather systems, extratropical storms, and hurricanes' (Chapter 5) and corresponding effects on coasts.

There is no preface, but text on the back cover states that the book is suitable for a broad geology course; it is 'designed for introductory students' and that 'its comprehensive treatment of coastal topics will make it appropriate for many upper level courses'. Unfortunately, there are significant problems with Beaches and Coasts that force these reviewers to suggest readers look elsewhere for a book on this subject.

Problems may be grouped into two categories: quality of content and standard of presentation. Both authors are based at universities in the US and, as might be expected, the focus is strongly American. In the opening chapter, Davis and FitzGerald state that 'it is no longer enough to observe, describe, and classify coastal features and environments' (p. 9) and that contemporary coastal research emphasises process-response systems. Despite these statements, the authors choose to use, at best, qualitative descriptions of process-response systems, and they frequently fall back into an approach based on observation, description and classification. Various examples demonstrate this discordance, such as the treatment of 'beach processes' in less than one page. Perhaps, the decision to avoid complex quantitative content was made to make the book more accessible to undergraduate students, and it is agreed that the content is at a level that would not cause students new to the subject to get bogged down.

Citations are usually omitted in introductory level texts that present a general overview of the state of knowledge in a subject. This book presents a more in-depth summary of beach and coast topics and reports frequently on specific studies and research findings that would have appeared in journals. It is curious that the only direct citations are to figures copied or reproduced from other publications, or to monographs in the suggested reading lists. The allusion to specific works without corresponding citations is poor practice and would not easily enable further investigation on topics. The suggested readings are generally good choices; some are dated (e.g., many from the 1970s or earlier) but may be considered 'classic' monographs in the field.

Several errors were found in the text, and some statements would mislead or confuse undergraduate students. For example, the authors state that dune migration occurs when sand is blown across the dune surface and deposited on a bare, steep leeward slope maintained at the angle of repose, and that 'this is true for all dunes regardless of their location or direction of migration' (p. 174). The generalisation is false, as parabolic dunes often have vegetated leeward slopes with lower gradients and steep windward slopes. Also, at one point the units for volume of littoral transport are given as [m.sup.2] [yr.sup.-1]. While this may be a correct reduction of [m.sup.3] [m.sup.-1] [yr.sup.-1], it is common and more clear to less experienced readers to provide the explicit units for volume of sand transported ([m.sup.3]) per length of coast ([m.sup.-1]) per year([yr.sup.-1]). These are just two examples of errors or of at least questionable material found in the book.

The standard of presentation in Beaches and Coasts is poor. The text often reads as a 'stream of consciousness' that may reflect a common approach to producing early drafts but suggests inadequate revision and editing. Too many paragraphs are simply strings of sentences, one leading only directly to the next but with little coherent organisation, integration and development of a central idea.

Diagrams are drawn with shades of only two main colours--blue and grey--plus white, and many have poor legibility because of insufficient contrast (e.g., Figure 8.28). Some maps are poorly reproduced copies directly from other publications (e.g., Figure 2.30). Special features are presented in boxes where the text is printed on a background of a picture relating to the given topic. Many of these boxes are consequently very difficult to read or at least are a severe strain on the eye (e.g., Box 12.1), and the background pictures have little or no additional benefit for the reader. Some of the photographs are difficult to interpret without a reference for scale or orientation, such as a scale bar or other annotation.

Overall, it appears that Davis and FitzGerald have suffered from inadequate review editing and proofreading during the preparation of Beaches and Coasts. With several recent titles on coastal geomorphology to choose from, readers are advised to consider other options as this book fails to live up to its potential.

CATHY CONRAD

PHILIP GILES

Saint Mary's University
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Author:Conrad, Cathy; Giles, Philip
Publication:The Canadian Geographer
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2005
Words:917
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