Beach-dune morphodynamics and marine macro-litter abundance: An integrated approach with Unmanned Aerial System

Umberto Andriolo, Gil Gonçalves, Paula Sobral, Ángela Fontán-Bouzas, Filipa Bessa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This work shows an integrated approach for coastal environmental monitoring, which aimed to understand the relation between beach-dune morphodynamics, marine litter abundance and environmental forcing. Three unmanned aerial system (UAS) flights were deployed on a beach-dune system at the Atlantic Portuguese coast to assess two main goals: (i) quantifying the morphological changes that occurred among flights, with focus on dune erosion, and (ii) mapping the changes of marine macro-litter abundance on the shore. Two most vulnerable-to-erosion sectors of the beach were identified. In the northern sector, the groin affected the downdrift shoreline, with dune erosion of about 1 m. In the central part of the beach, the dunes recessed about 4 m during the winter, being more exposed to environmental forcing due to the absence of dune vegetation. Marine litter occupation area on the beach decreased from 25% to 20% over the winter, with octopus pots (13%) and fragments (69%) being the most abundant items on average. Litter distribution varied in relation to swash elevation, wind speed and direction. With low swash elevation, the wind played a predominant role in moving the stranded items northwards, whereas high swash elevation concentrated the items at the dune foot. This study emphasizes the potential of UAS in allowing an integrated approach for coastal erosion monitoring and marine litter mapping, and set the ground for marine litter dynamic modelling on the shore.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141474
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2020


  • Coastal erosion
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Plastic
  • Remote sensing
  • Wave runup


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