The long-term dynamic evolution of an idealized barrier-marsh-lagoon system experiencing sea-level rise is studied by coupling two existing numerical models. The barrier model accounts for the interaction between shoreface dynamics and overwash flux, which allows the occurrence of barrier drowning. The marsh-lagoon model includes both a backbarrier marsh and an interior marsh, and accounts for the modification of the wave regime associated with changes in lagoon width and depth. Overwash, the key process that connects the barrier shoreface with the marsh-lagoon ecosystems, is formulated to account for the role of the backbarrier marsh. Model results show that a number of factors that are not typically associated with the dynamics of coastal barriers can enhance the rate of overwash-driven landward migration by increasing backbarrier accommodation space. For instance, lagoon deepening could be triggered by marsh edge retreat and consequent export of fine sediment via tidal dispersion, as well as by an expansion of inland marshes and consequent increase in accommodation space to be filled in with sediment. A deeper lagoon results in a larger fraction of sediment overwash being subaqueous, which coupled with a slow shoreface response sending sediment onshore can trigger barrier drowning. We therefore conclude that the supply of fine sediments to the back-barrier and the dynamics of both the interior and backbarrier marsh can be essential for maintaining the barrier system under elevated rates of sea-level rise. Our results highlight the importance of considering barriers and their associated backbarriers as part of an integrated system in which sediment is exchanged.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes