A NEW onshore-offshore bedrock geology map published for the seabed in Dorset will allow better understanding and identification of our coastline, according to scientists.

The map of the eastern half of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site was publicwas by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the University of Southampton.

This is the first time a map of this resolution has been published for the seabed in this area, and scientists say it will undoubtedly play an important role in effectively managing this sensitive coastline.

The map is said to be of value for coastal planners and engineers concerned with protecting coastlines and scientists say it will allow better understanding and identification of the most sensitive stretches of coastline including those that are prone to landslides or beach erosion.

Professor Dave Sanderson, from the University of Southampton, said: “This new approach to detailed, bedrock mapping clearly demonstrates that geology does not end at the coastline. Indeed, the extent of seabed exposure, along with the quality and resolution of the data has allowed us to fully re-interpret the geological history of this globally important site.”

The map was made with partners, including the University of Southampton under the Maritime Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP). This wider programme of coastal research aims to integrate research from a variety of partners to inform practical applications such as marine planning, conservation and industry.

It was made possible through the use of the new generation of high-resolution, shallow water bathymetric mapping and aerial Lidar information. This has been collected as part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) UK Civil Hydrography Programme and the National Network of Regional Coastal Monitoring Programmes - coordinated by the Channel Coastal Observatory.

This information then provides the backdrop for detailed geological surveying.

Dr Travis Mason, director of the Channel Coastal Observatory added: “This release of a seamless coastal map by the BGS, which uses data provided by the Channel Coastal Observatory, is hugely valuable for the coastal monitoring community, exposing as it does the key cross-over region between land and sea which is the unseen buffer zone for our coastline.”

Scientists say the new research highlights how little is known about the narrow strip of coastline just below the low-water mark, despite its proximity to the shore.

The ultimate aim is to address this lack of knowledge around the UK coast with up-to-date geological mapping, not just of the bedrock, but also coastal landslides and mobile sediments. To achieve this, areas such as the Jurassic Coast are being used as a test bed for new digital mapping techniques which can then be rolled out in the future to support UK and International coastal and continental shelf research.