Davina Passeri invited to present on barrier island evolution at Deford Lecture Series

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Davina Passeri of the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center has been invited to present a talk titled, “Modeling decadal barrier island evolution under future storms and sea level rise” at the University of Texas DeFord Lecture Series on February 25.

Model contrast lower sea level rise vs. higher sea level rise into the future

This model shows what Dauphin Island, Alabama, may look like under moderate storms but with increasing rates of sea level rise (Passeri and others, 2018). (Credit: RC Mickey, images. B. Boynton, animation, USGS. Public domain.)

The DeFord Lecture series at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Geological Sciences is a forum for lectures by distinguished visitors and prestigious researchers from around the world. Davina’s talk will discuss her team’s work on modeling how Dauphin Island, Alabama, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, will change under different storminess and sea level rise scenarios in the future.

Barrier islands protect mainland coastal communities during storms. The combined effects of storms and sea level rise (SLR) threaten barrier islands with increased inundation, and loss of land and habitats for critical species. The Alabama Barrier Island Restoration Assessment (ABIRA) was a science-based, collaborative effort between the State of Alabama, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to investigate viable restoration options for Dauphin Island, Alabama in order to increase island sustainability and restore vital habitats for species affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A suite of numerical models was developed to provide a quantitative understanding of the physical processes governing the barrier island system. Models of sediment movement, storm-driven changes, and post-storm dune recovery were combined to simulate how the island may evolve under different scenarios of sea level rise (SLR) and more frequent, more intense storms. The results showed that under high SLR and storminess, the island was unable to keep pace or recover elevation after storms and drowned in just 10 years. This information was then used to predict how oyster and seagrass habitats may change as a result. Together, these models were used to assess which proposed management actions could balance objectives for habitats, sustainability, residents, and conservation values.

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