Processes of Sediment Exchange between Tidal Inlets, Ebb Deltas and Barrier Islands

  • G. F. Oertel
Part of the Lecture Notes on Coastal and Estuarine Studies book series (COASTAL, volume 29)


Tidal inlets of barrier island systems generally are considered sediment sinks, whereas islands are sources. However, this simplified concept assumes that littoral transport is the only means of moving material through the system and that most inlets are inefficient by-passers of sediment. At tide-dominated inlets, material scoured from inlet gorges may provide a significant sediment source that influences delta growth and by-passing.

The magnitude of sediment by-passing at inlets is a major factor determining whether islands or deltas become sediment sources or sinks. Bar by-passing and inlet current by-passing are processes that represent stages in a continuum between “total” bypassing and “no” by-passing.

An exhaustive literature exists on migrating inlets that are poor by-passers. Sediment accumulates in spits on the updrift barriers (sinks) and erodes from truncated ridges on downdrift barriers (sources). Migrating inlets that are efficient by-passers have accumulations of sediment on the downdrift ends of adjacent barriers.

Stable inlets that are poor by-passers have deep inlet gorges (sources) and large shore-normal tidal deltas (sinks). Sediment stored in deltas eventually may return to the islands via the adjacent shoreface.


Littoral Zone Barrier Island Shoreline Change Tidal Inlet Tidal Prism 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. F. Oertel
    • 1
  1. 1.Barrier Island Program, Department of OceanographyOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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