Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Chair

Dr. Gregory Carter

Committee Chair Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Franklin Heitmuller

Committee Member 2 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 3

Dr. George Raber

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology

Abstract

ABSTRACT

A COMPARISON OF HABITAT AND GEOMORPHIC CHANGES ON EAST SHIP VERSUS SAND ISLANDS MISSISSIPPI, 2007-2014

by Carlton Peter Anderson

May 2015

The islands of the Mississippi-Alabama (MS-AL) barrier island chain along the micro-tidal northern Gulf of Mexico are highly dynamic coastal features subject to rapid changes in habitat, geomorphology, and elevation by natural and anthropogenic disturbances, such as hurricanes, subsidence, sea-level rise, and dredging activities. The purpose of this study was to compare elevation, total volume, habitat-type coverage, and short-term change between “naturally” formed East Ship Island and “man-made” Sand Island (Disposal-Area 10). This study used a combination of repeat photography, ground elevation measurements, and multi-year remotely sensed data to produce photographic pairs, habitat classifications, and digital elevation maps to quantify short-term change. Changes to both islands followed two moderately-sized hurricanes in 2008 and 2012. Sand Island experienced land loss, and East Ship Island had land area gain following the 2012 hurricane. Reductions to the beach dune herbland habitat coverage on both islands were a direct result of these events. However, rapid recovery (~1.5 to 2 yr) of the habitat was observed in 2010 and again in 2014, suggesting these storms were actually beneficial to the islands. Fluctuations in coverage for all common habitats were similar on both islands, with the exception of marsh shrubland. Similar ranges of elevations (MSL) were found for habitats on both islands, with transitions of habitats occurring approximately every 0.3 m of increase or decrease. Although different in age, these two islands show remarkable similarities in habitat make-up and geomorphic features.

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