Intertidal boulder transport: a proposed methodology adopting Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to quantify storm induced boulder mobility

Linley John Hastewell, Martin Schaefer, Malcolm Bray, Rob Inkpen

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Boulder transport is an area of growing interest to coastal scientists as a means of improving our understanding of the complex interactions between extreme wave activity and the evolution of rocky coasts. However, our knowledge of the response of intertidal boulder deposits to contemporary storm events remains limited due to a lack of quantifiable field-based evidence.We address this by presenting a methodology incorporating Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging and Differential Global Positioning Navigation Satellite System (DGNSS) technology to monitor and accurately quantify the displacement of RFID tagged boulders resulting from storm wave activity. Based on preliminary findings we highlight the suitability of the technology and methodology to better understand the spatial and temporal response of intertidal boulders to contemporary storm events.We inserted RFID tags in 104 limestone boulders (intermediate axes from 0.27 to 2.85m) across a range of morphogenic settings at two sites on the intertidal shore platforms at Bembridge, Isle of Wight (UK). Fifteen topographic surveys were conducted between July2015 and May 2017 to relocate and record tagged boulder locations (tag recovery rate: 91%). The relocated boulder coordinate data from both sites identified 164 individual transport events in 63% of the tagged boulder array amounting to 184.6 m of transport, including the displacement of a boulder weighing more than 10 tonnes.Incidents of boulder quarrying and overturning during transport were also recorded, demonstrating that despite the relatively sheltered location, intertidal boulders are created and regularly transported under moderate storm conditions. This suggests that contemporary storm events have a greater propensity to mobilise boulders in the intertidal range than has previously been realised. Consequently, by documenting our methodology we provide guidance to others and promote further use of RFID technology to enable new hypotheses on boulder transport to be tested in a range of field settings and wave regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Early online date26 Nov 2018
Publication statusEarly online - 26 Nov 2018


  • RFID tagging
  • Boulder transport
  • Storm events
  • Sediment tracing
  • Coastal change


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