The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is studying coastal hazards and coastal change to improve our understanding of coastal ecosystems and to develop better capabilities of predicting future coastal change. One approach to understanding the dynamics of coastal systems is to monitor changes in barrier-island subenvironments through time. This involves examining morphologic and topographic change at temporal scales ranging from millennia to years and spatial scales ranging from tens of kilometers to meters. Of particular interest are the processes that produce those changes and the determination of whether or not those processes are likely to persist into the future. In these analyses of hazards and change, both natural and anthropogenic influences are considered. Quantifying past magnitudes and rates of coastal change and knowing the principal factors that govern those changes are critical to predicting what changes are likely to occur under different scenarios, such as short-term impacts of extreme storms or long-term impacts of sea-level rise. Gulf Islands National Seashore was selected for detailed mapping of barrier-island morphology and topography because the islands offer a diversity of depositional subenvironments and because island areas and positions have changed substantially in historical time. The geomorphologic and subenvironmental maps emphasize the processes that formed the surficial features and also serve as a basis for documenting which subenvironments are relatively stable, such as the vegetated barrier core, and those which are highly dynamic, such as the beach and inactive overwash zones.
The primary mapping procedures were supervised functions within a Geographic Information System (GIS) that were applied to delineate and classify depositional subenvironments and features, collectively referred to as map units. The delineated boundaries of the map units were exported to create one shapefile, and are differentiated by the field "Type" in the associated attribute table. Map units were delineated and classified based on differences in tonal patterns of features in contrast to adjacent features observed on orthophotography. Land elevations from recent lidar surveys served as supplementary data to assist in delineating the map unit boundaries.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geomorphology and depositional subenvironments of Gulf Islands National Seashore, Perdido Key and Santa Rosa Island, Florida