11 Jul 2023
 | 11 Jul 2023

Implications for the Resilience of Modern Coastal Systems Derived from Mesoscale Barrier Dynamics at Fire Island, New York

Daniel Ciarletta, Jennifer Miselis, Julie Bernier, and Arnell Forde

Abstract. Understanding coastal barrier response to future changes in sea-level rise rate, sediment availability, and storm intensity/frequency is essential for coastal planning, including socioeconomic and ecological management. Identifying drivers of past changes in barrier morphology, as well as barrier sensitivity to these forces, is necessary to accomplish this. Using remote-sensing, field, and laboratory analyses, we reconstruct the mesoscale (decades-centuries) evolution of central Fire Island, a portion of a 50-kilometer barrier island fronting Long Island, New York, USA. We find that the configuration of the modern beach and foredune at Fire Island is radically different from the system’s relict morphostratigraphy. Central Fire Island is comprised of at least three formerly inlet-divided rotational barriers with distinct subaerial beach and dune-ridge systems that were active prior to the mid-19th century. Varying morphologic states reflected in the relict barriers (e.g., progradational, transgressive) contrast with the modern barrier, which is dominated by a tall and nearly continuous foredune and is relatively static except for erosion and drowning of fringing marsh. We suggest this state shift indicates a transition from a regime dominated by inlet-mediated gradients in alongshore sediment availability to one where human impacts exerted greater influence on island evolution from the late 19th century onward. The retention of some ‘geomorphic capital’ in Fire Island’s relict subaerial features combined with its static nature renders the barrier increasingly susceptible to narrowing and passive submergence. This may lead to an abrupt geomorphic state shift in the future, a veiled vulnerability that may also exist in other stabilized barriers.

Daniel Ciarletta et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1307', Anonymous Referee #1, 14 Aug 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Daniel Ciarletta, 19 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1307', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 Aug 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Daniel Ciarletta, 19 Sep 2023

Daniel Ciarletta et al.

Data sets

Sediment Data From Vibracores and Sand Augers Collected in 2021 and 2022 From Fire Island, New York Julie C. Bernier, Cheyenne S. Everhart, Daniel J. Ciarletta, Jennifer L. Miselis, Nancy T. DeWitt

Archive of Ground Penetrating Radar and Differential Global Positioning System Data Collected in April 2016 from Fire Island, New York Arnell S. Forde, Julie C. Bernier, Jennifer L. Miselis

Ground Penetrating Radar and Global Positioning System Data Collected in 2021 From Fire Island, New York Arnell S. Forde, Julie C. Bernier, Daniel J. Ciarletta, Jennifer L. Miselis

Daniel Ciarletta et al.


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Short summary
We reconstructed the evolution of Fire Island, a barrier island in New York, USA, to identify drivers of landscape change. Results reveal Fire Island was once divided into multiple inlet-separated islands with distinct features. Later, inlets closed, and Fire Island’s landscape became more uniform as human activities intensified. The island is now less mobile and less likely to resist and recover from storm impacts and sea-level rise. This vulnerability may exist for other stabilized barriers.