Virginia Institute of Marine Science
JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE
Interactions between backbarrier marshes and barrier islands will likely play an important role in determining how low-lying coastal systems respond to sea level rise and changes in storminess in the future. To assess the role of couplings between marshes and barrier islands under changing conditions, we develop and apply a coupled barrier island-marsh model (GEOMBEST+) to assess the impact of overwash deposition on backbarrier marsh morphology and of marsh morphology on rates of island migration. Our model results suggest that backbarrier marsh width is in a constant state of change until either the backbarrier basin becomes completely filled or backbarrier marsh deposits have completely eroded away. Results also suggest that overwash deposition is an important source of sediment, which allows existing narrow marshes to be maintained in a long-lasting alternate state (similar to 500m wide in the Virginia Barrier Islands) within a range of conditions under which they would otherwise disappear. The existence of a narrow marsh state is supported by observations of backbarrier marshes along the eastern shore of Virginia. Additional results suggest that marshes reduce accommodation in the backbarrier bay, which, in turn, decreases island migration rate. As climate change results in sea level rise, and the increased potential for intense hurricanes resulting in overwash, it is likely that these couplings will become increasingly important in determining future system behavior.
backbarrier marsh; barrier island; overwash; sea level rise; coastal erosion
Walters, David C.; Moore, Laura J.; Vincent, Orencio Duran; Fagherazzi, Sergio; and Mariotti, Giulio, Interactions between barrier islands and backbarrier marshes affect island system response to sea level rise: Insights from a coupled model (2014). JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE, 119, 2013-2031.