Jean T. Ellis, Ph.D., Mayra A. Román-Rivera, Ph.D., Michelle E. Harris, and Peter A. Terezkiewicz, 2020. “Two years and two hurricanes later: Did the dunes recover? “, Shore & Beach, 88(4), 3-12
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Two years and two hurricanes later: Did the dunes recover?
Jean T. Ellis, Ph.D., Mayra A. Román-Rivera, Ph.D.,
Michelle E. Harris, and Peter A. Terezkiewicz
Department of Geography, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208
Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
In many places along the U.S. East and Gulf of Mexico coasts, barrier islands are the first line of defense against extreme weather events threatening our coastlines. The trademark of these barrier islands are sand dunes that are intricately bound, from a sedimentary perspective, to the beach. Coastal storms, such as Hurricanes Matthew (2016), Irma and Maria (2017), and Florence (2018) have devastating impacts on these environments. This study investigated the volumetric changes of an anthropogenic and controlled beach-dune system on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, for approximately one year following Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017). This research reveals that these systems did not recover. The average loss of sand at the beach was -15.5% (nv = -0.89), whereas the dunes gained an average of 13.3% (nv = 0.79), when compared to the already diminished post-storm volumes. When considering the pre-Hurricane Irma to pre-Hurricane Florence temporal period, the recovery percentages for the anthropogenic and control dunes was -15.5% and -40.1%, respectively, suggesting a net loss of sand. Cumulative storms, such as those experienced on the coast of South Carolina and many other coasts, pose a substantial threat to the long-term viability of coastal dune systems. However, recovery at the control site in the form of incipient foredune growth is promising. This paper concludes with a list of influencing factors to dune recovery.