Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
College of Science and Mathematics
Earth and Environmental Studies
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Jorge Lorenzo Trueba
Societal benefits and ecosystem services provided by barrier islands are at risk as these landforms evolve rapidly in response to system changes including an increasing rate of sea-level rise and changing storm patterns. To prevent retreat or drowning, the expected response of natural barrier islands, and preserve benefits provided by barrier islands, significant investments are made at developed barrier islands to stabilize ocean and bay shorelines. Maintaining stable shorelines may not be sustainable in the future due to changing environmental, financial, and political conditions. Decadal to centennial-scale alongshore barrier island evolution at Long Beach Island, New Jersey is analyzed to quantify natural and anthropogenic processes to determine the driving factors of barrier island evolution as Long Beach Island transitioned from a natural to developed system. An improved understanding of natural barrier island evolution can help prepare for scenarios where coastal engineering is scaled back and barrier islands evolve in a more natural state. Previous work determined Long Beach Island began to behave as a fully developed system after 1934 as shorelines stabilized or began to prograde. Alongshore evolution prior to 1934 is studied via historic maps and coupled with a coastal engineering timeline to quantify landscape change based on natural processes or human activities. Long Beach Island evolved rotationally in its natural state, prior to the first coastal engineering efforts at Long Beach Island in the form of local, small-scale jetties at its northern tip in the 1860s. In its natural state, Long Beach Island retreated in the north and expanded seaward in the south. After 1875, Long Beach Island began to retreat as a whole. Despite their small scale, these jetties had system-wide effects not only capturing sediment locally but also shifting alongshore sediment transport at a system-wide scale by altering inlet dynamics, leading to downdrift sediment starvation and island retreat. Barrier island shape played a major role on alongshore evolution as the greatest degree of sediment loss took place at local shoreline seaward protrusions leading to major losses at these locations as they were starved of sediment. Overall, this work determined that even small-scale coastal engineering efforts can have system-wide effects, completely shifting Long Beach Island’s evolution compared to its natural state suggesting system-wide consequences should be examined, beyond local effects, when altering coastal engineering strategies moving forward.
Nichols-O’Neill, Shane, "Quantifying Local and Regional Effects of Human Development on Centennial Barrier Island Evolution : Insights from Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey" (2023). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1357.
Available for download on Saturday, September 13, 2025