Terrestrial LiDAR monitoring of coastal foredune evolution in managed and unmanaged systems

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Coastal dunes provide essential protection for infrastructure in developed regions, acting as the first line of defence against ocean-side flooding. Quantifying dune erosion, growth and recovery from storms is critical from management, resiliency and engineering with nature perspectives. This study utilizes 22 months of high-resolution terrestrial LiDAR (Riegl VZ-2000) observations to investigate the impact of management, anthropogenic modifications and four named storms on dune morphological evolution along ~100 m of an open-coast, recently nourished beach in Nags Head, NC. The influences of specific management strategies – such as fencing and plantings – were evaluated by comparing these to the morphologic response at an unmanaged control site at the USACE Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck, NC (33 km to the north), which experienced similar environmental forcings. Various beach-dune morphological parameters were extracted (e.g. backshore-dune volume) and compared with aeolian and hydrodynamic forcing metrics between each survey interval. The results show that LiDAR is a useful tool for quantifying complex dune evolution over fine spatial and temporal scales. Under similar forcings, the managed dune grew 1.7 times faster than the unmanaged dune, due to a larger sediment supply and enhanced capture through fencing, plantings and walkovers. These factors at the managed site contributed to the welding of the incipient dune to the primary foredune over a short period of less than a year, which has been observed to take up to decades in natural systems. Storm events caused alongshore variable dune erosion primarily to the incipient dune, yet also caused significant accretion, particularly along the crest at the managed site, resulting in net dune growth. Traditional empirical Bagnold equations correlated with observed trends of backshore-dune growth but overpredicted magnitudes. This is likely because these formulations do not encompass supply-limiting factors and erosional processes. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Earth Surface Processes and Landforms