Barrier Island Dynamics

An on-going study by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows Virginia’s barrier islands are eroding or migrating landward at 3 to 18 feet per year. They estimate the landward migration consumes at least 60 acres of back-barrier saltmarsh annually, and has buried nearly 8,000 acres of these saltmarshes since 1870—almost 10% of Virginia’s historical acreage of back-barrier saltmarsh habitat. Loss of marshes is of significant environmental concern given their beneficial role as feeding grounds for waterfowl, nursery grounds for numerous marine species, and ability to absorb carbon, pollutants, and wave energy.

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Virginia's Barrier Islands

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