The term shoal is also used in a number of ways that can be either similar or quite different from how it is used in the geologic, geomorphic, and oceanographic literature. Sometimes, this terms refers to either (1) any relatively shallow place in a stream, lake, sea, or other body of water; (2) a rocky area on the sea floor within an area mapped for navigation purposes; (3) a growth of vegetation on the bottom of a deep lake that occurs at any depth; (4) and as a verb for the process of proceeding from a greater to a lesser depth of water.
Shoals are characteristically long and narrow (linear) ridges. They can develop where a stream, river, or ocean current promotes deposition of sediment and granular material, resulting in localized shallowing (shoaling) of the water. Marine shoals also develop either by the in place drowning of barrier islands as the result of episodic sea level rise or by the erosion and submergence of inactive delta lobes.
A shoal–sandbar may seasonally separate a smaller body of water from the sea, such as:
The term bar can apply to landform features spanning a considerable range in size, from a length of a few metres in a small stream to marine depositions stretching for hundreds of kilometers along a coastline, often called barrier islands.