Land loss and seafloor change around the Mississippi and Alabama (MS-AL) barrier islands are of great concern to the public and to local, state, and federal agencies. The islands provide wildlife protected areas and recreational land, and they serve as a natural first line of defense for the mainland against storm activity (index map on poster). Principal physical conditions that drive morphological seafloor and coastal change in this area include decreased sediment supply, sea-level rise, storms, and human activities (Otvos, 1970; Byrnes and others, 1991; Morton and others, 2004; Morton, 2008). Seafloor responses to the same processes can also affect the entire coastal zone. Sediment eroded from the barrier islands is entrained in the littoral system, where it is redistributed by alongshore currents. Wave and current activity is partially controlled by the profile of the seafloor, and this interdependency along with natural and anthropogenic influences has significant effects on nearshore environments. When a coastal system is altered by human activity such as dredging, as is the case of the MS-AL coastal region, the natural state and processes are altered, and alongshore sediment transport can be disrupted. As a result of deeply dredged channels, adjacent island migration is blocked, nearshore environments downdrift in the littoral system become sediment starved, and sedimentation around the channels is modified. Sediment deposition and erosion are reflected through seafloor evolution. In a rapidly changing coastal environment, understanding historically where and why changes are occurring is essential. To better assess the comprehensive dynamics of the MS-AL coastal zone, a 160-year evaluation of the bathymetry and bathymetric change of the region was conducted.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Historical bathymetry and bathymetric change in the Mississippi-Alabama coastal region, 1847-2009