Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 473–482 | Cite as

Dynamic coastal dune spit: the impact of morphological change on dune slacks at Whiteford Burrows, South Wales, UK

Article

Abstract

Whiteford Burrows is a coastal dune spit wetland in South Wales that is susceptible to morphological change. The height of the ridge of groundwater within the sand aquifer is essentially proportional to the width of the spit. The water table elevation impacts both the frequency and duration of slack flooding events and, therefore, slack ecology. A severe late winter storm event on 17 March 1995 caused extensive erosion of the foreshore, reducing the effective width of the dune system by 4 % and the water table elevation by up to 1 m. This observed relationship allows water level elevations in the dune system to be hindcast using historical maps and air photos which record past change in dune morphology. These historical data indicate that the dunes were relatively broad in the nineteenth century and the slacks were humid and liable to regular winter flooding. The system slowly dried out towards the 1940s as the spit thinned, when subsequent widening allowed the water table to rise and once again flood slack floors in winter. Despite these changes, the alkalinity of the Whiteford Burrows dune system has inhibited organic matter accumulation and maintained conditions needed for the persistence of a diverse basiphilous vegetation assemblage in many of the slacks.

Keywords

Sand dune Morphology Water table Change Ecohydrology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to both Countryside Council for Wales and the Natural Environment Research Council for supporting morphological and hydrological investigations at Whiteford Burrows. The local support of Nick Edwards and Gareth Dockerty, from Countryside Council for Wales, has been invaluable particularly in data gathering activities. Simon Blott of KPAL is also thanked for GIS assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Geological SurveyWallingfordUK
  2. 2.Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd, Crowthorne Enterprise CentreCrowthorne Business EstateBerkshireUK
  3. 3.Ecological Surveys (Bangor)HerefordshireUK

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