Coastal systems in the Gulf of Mexico are threatened by reduced sediment supply, storm impacts and relative sea-level rise (RSLR). The geologic record provides insight into geomorphic evolution thresholds to these forcing mechanisms to help predict future barrier evolution in response to climate change. This study synthesizes ∼2100 km of geophysical data, 700 + sediment cores, and 62 radiocarbon dates to regionally map two lowstand sequence boundaries, multiple ravinement surfaces and fourteen depositional facies demonstrating stratigraphic and antecedent topographic influences on coastal evolution. The Mississippi-Alabama (MSAL) barriers are anchored by a marine isotope stage (MIS) 5e section of Dauphin Island coupled with an MIS 2 surface gradient change. Sand for the modern MSAL barriers were largely sourced through Holocene transgressive ravinement of relict valley fill deposits, providing up to 300 × 106 m3 of sand. Mud-filled MIS 2 tributaries correspond to areas of repeated storm breaching or tidal inlets.
A Holocene geomorphic evolutionary model was created for Petit Bois and Dauphin Islands, highlighting RSLR rates, changes in sediment supply and the antecedent geologic framework. As the MIS 2 surface was flooded, tidal/wave scour supplied sand to migrating marine shoals. These transgressing shoals converted drowned paleovalleys to estuaries ∼9ka BP. Islands formed in their modern positions ∼6ka BP, when sediment supply was high and RSLR rates were 2 mm/yr. Between ∼4ka-1750 CE, islands prograded from reduced RSLR rates of 1-0.4 mm/yr and sufficient sand supply from alongshore/inner shelf sources. Currently, the islands experience 3.74 mm/yr of RSLR and reduced sediment supply, resulting in barrier degradation.