In situ abrasion of shingle beach material is a neglected area of study in coastal geomorphology, with reduction in beach volumes normally attributed to longshore and offshore drift. Results from field abrasion experiments conducted on flint shingle beaches on the East Sussex coast, southern England, show that in situ reductions in volume of beach material may be more significant than has been thought. Two beaches composed almost entirely of flint shingle were seeded with hard quartzite from a Devon beach and less resistant limestone from a South Wales beach that are readily distinguishable from the flint.
The seeding commenced in January 2001. The pebbles, similar in size and shape to the natural flint shingle, were left in the surf zone at two sites. Prior to exposure the pebbles were engraved with a code number and weighed. At regular intervals those that could be re-found were re-weighed and returned to the beach. Abrasion rates were calculated for each pebble as percentage weight loss per tide. By the end of October 2001, more than 700 measurements of abrasion rates had been made from a total of 431 pebbles.
Average limestone abrasion rates (0.0266% loss of weight per tide) were three times greater than those of quartzite (0.0082% per tide). Measurable abrasion rates were recorded over just a few tidal cycles, not only in severe wave conditions but also in much calmer weather. The maximum abrasion rates recorded exceeded 1% per tide for limestone.