Changing shorelines, after Smith (1972)

Aberlady dunes

Aberlady dune succession

Aberlady links

Aberlady processes

Aberlady salt marsh

Aberlady Sands

Aberlady slacks                                

Aberlady Bay: changing coastlines

The coastline around Aberlady is shifting westwards as the land continues to rise slowly from the sea in response to post-glacial isostatic rebound. Since 5500 years ago, the high water mark has moved up to 500 m to the southwest and a large volume of sand and mud has accumulated within Aberlady Bay.

The shift in orientation of the outer shoreline from north-south to north east-south west is a result of several periods of sand spit formation and subsequent dune ridge evolution. About 5500 years ago sea level stood some 6m higher than at present, with a marked cliff line, still visible at Luffness Links, behind a sandy foreshore which now underlies the Marl Loch. The earliest sand spit, east of the Marl Loch, is believed to have formed some 4000 years ago, allowing a salt marsh to develop in its lee. Thereafter the shoreline slowly advanced westward, with a succession of dune ridges developing behind the sandy beach. The ridges probably developed in the same way as new dunes are forming on the latest spit today, with emergence of embryo dunes, progressive vegetation colonisation and dune growth. Old maps confirm that the most rapid advance of the shoreline continues to be on the sands west of the Yellow Mires. The Google Earth image above shows clearly the continuing accumulation of sand - and why the old port of Aberlady and its Customs House were abandoned as the Bay shallowed.