Back-barrier and Estuarine - Coastal System Change at Fire Island, New York

Science Center Objects

Regional-scale modeling forecasts how atmospheric forcing and oceanographic circulation influence estuarine circulation and water levels, sediment transport, and wetland change.

Tides, winds, and waves drive changes in water level, estuarine circulation, and sediment transport. Sediment is eroded and deposited in mainland and back-barrier marshes and wetlands, which results in constantly evolving estuarine morphology. Furthermore, natural or human-mediated changes in inlet and barrier island morphology may alter exchanges between estuaries and the open ocean. The altered exchanges have consequences for light conditions and water quality in the bays. Seagrass beds and marshes provide some protection to surrounding communities via wave attenuation, but wave attack leads to overall marsh landward migration. Using observations and numerical models, the USGS is investigating the influence of changes in barrier island and inlet geomorphology on estuarine circulation, marsh stability, and water levels in Great South Bay.  

Estuarine Processes, Hazards, and Ecosystems

Estuaries are dynamic environments where complex interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, watershed, ecosystems, and human infrastructure take place. They serve as valuable ecological habitat and provide numerous ecosystem services.