Mercaldi, B.; Brideau, L.E.; Tait, J.F., and Griggs, G., 2022. Seasonal morphological variability on estuarine beaches and implications for low-energy beach management. Journal of Coastal Research, 38(6), 1135–1147. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Estuarine beaches and other low-energy shorelines are critical for habitats and coastal infrastructure protection. Many different species inhabit estuaries because of the water bodies' unique characteristics, such as their mixed seawater and freshwater and variable tidal ranges. Estuarine beaches also have the important role of buffering storm wave energy. Yet, their natural physical processes are understudied. This research focuses on seasonal morphological variability of estuarine, low-energy beaches and evaluates the implications for beach management practices. Five sandy beaches were studied along the northern shoreline of Long Island Sound in the northeastern region of the United States. The studied beaches vary in location, width, length, and orientation within Long Island Sound to represent different exposures to wave energy. Three seasonal profiles were measured at each beach approximately every four months from late 2015 to early 2019 to document topographic changes. The results revealed minimal sediment movement throughout the study period and there was no evidence of significant cyclic cross-shore sediment transport to indicate patterns of seasonal profile changes. These findings reveal important implications for beach management practices on low-energy shorelines. Specifically, estuarine and other low-energy beaches should be studied on decadal time scales to document any long-term variability and post-storm recovery rather than the monthly or yearly time scales on which open-ocean beaches are typically evaluated. Additionally, estuarine beaches and other low-energy shorelines require specialized management practices that cater to their stagnancy to ensure adequate protection of coastal structures and infrastructure in the face of intensifying hurricanes and sea level rise.