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Book Chapter

The relative influence of humans on barrier islands: Humans versus geomorphology

By
Matthew L. Stutz
Matthew L. Stutz
Duke University, Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA
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Orrin H. Pilkey
Orrin H. Pilkey
Duke University, Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA
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Published:
January 2005

Abstract

Humans are an integral component of barrier island systems throughout the world. The diversity of cultures (e.g., economics, politics) present has as much influence on barrier island evolution as the diversity of environments (e.g., climate) in which they are found.

The actions of humans affect three inherent properties of barrier islands: Each island is individually unique in its physical and ecological setting (affected by direct “local” human activity), each island is linked to a chain of adjacent islands through longshore transport (affected by “regional” activity elsewhere), and each island responds dynamically to environmental change through cross-shore transport (affected by regional activity and shoreline stabilization).

Geomorphic carrying capacity is the resilience of barrier islands to human impacts. Geomorphic risk factors serve as a basis for predicting resiliency, providing both a measure of dynamic change (erosion rate and storm frequency) and available buffer space (island width and elevation). As risk factors increase, the dynamic and spatial character of an island comes into greater conflict with human landscape elements and is more likely to be altered.

The relative influence of humans on barrier island evolution can be estimated by comparing the anthropogenic impacts on the three major island properties to the island's carrying capacity. When the three properties have been completely altered, an island becomes entirely human-dominated, or “terminated.” Carrying capacity can indicate whether stabilization, retreat, or abandonment is the best long-term management option.

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Contents

Reviews in Engineering Geology

Humans as Geologic Agents

Edited by
Judy Ehlen
Judy Ehlen
Department of Geology, Radford University, Radford, Virginia 24142, USA
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William C. Haneberg
William C. Haneberg
Haneberg Geoscience, 10208 39th Avenue SW, Seattle, Washington 98146, USA
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Robert A. Larson
Robert A. Larson
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Alhambra, California 91803, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
16
ISBN electronic:
9780813758169
Publication date:
2005

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