Differences in Erosion Rates and Elevation Among Natural, Living and Hardened Shorelines in Mississippi, and Alabama
Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Marine Biology BS
Patrick Biber, Ph.D.
Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
Shoreline erosion is a phenomenon that currently threatens both natural ecosystems and human settlements along the coast. With trends showing gradual sea level rise as a result of climate change, erosion is becoming an increasing threat to these communities. This research aims to provide more insight into the relationship between shoreline morphology and three shoreline protection techniques: natural marsh, living shoreline, and hardened structures. Six sites along the Alabama and Mississippi coast that had all three shoreline types were evaluated to determine what the average erosion rate and slope was for each shoreline. Erosion rates were calculated by image analysis and georectification over a period of ~30 years using historical imagery available on Google Earth Pro. Slopes were calculated from shoreline elevation change profiles measured in the field along duplicate transects laid perpendicular to the shore. Both wave fetch exposure and shoreline treatment type were found to have an effect on shoreline retreat. As wave exposure increased so did the shoreline’s erosion rate across all sites. Between the three treatment types hardened shorelines were the most resistant to erosion while natural shorelines were the most susceptible. The data also suggests that the implementation of living elements at a shoreline helped to slow erosion after construction. Analysis of elevation data showed that fetch energy did not affect the slope as much as shoreline type. The highest slopes were found at hardened shorelines, while the gentlest slopes were found on living shorelines. This research provides coastal managements with a better understanding of the dynamics of shoreline stabilization and with construction options to better protect shorelines.
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Juneau, Brittany, "Differences in Erosion Rates and Elevation Among Natural, Living and Hardened Shorelines in Mississippi, and Alabama" (2021). Honors Theses. 811.