Encyclopedia of Coastal Science

2019 Edition
| Editors: Charles W. Finkl, Christopher Makowski

Barrier Island Landforms

  • Ilya V. Buynevich
  • Duncan M. FitzGeraldEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-93806-6_367


Coastal barriers are among the most dynamic landforms on Earth and the sites of some of the most beautiful beaches. These coastal accumulation forms are constructed by the combined action of waves, tides, and longshore currents as thin strips of land that build above sea level. They generally parallel the coast and gain vertical elevation through aeolian activity. They are called barriers because they protect the mainland coast and water bodies (backbarrier) from the direct forces of the sea, particularly during storms. They dampen the effects of storm waves, heightened tides, and salt spray. The bays, lagoons, marshes, and tidal creeks that form behind barriers provide safe harborages, nursery grounds for many marine organisms, and important sources of nutrients for coastal waters. Barriers occur in a variety of geomorphic settings but are most common where sediment supplies are abundant and hydrographic regime (wave and tidal forces) is conducive for onshore sand...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anthony EJ (1995) Beach-ridge development and sediment supply: examples from West Africa. Mar Geol 129:175–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Belknap DF, Kraft JC (1985) Influence of antecedent geology on stratigraphic preservation potential and evolution of Delaware’s barrier systems. Mar Geol 63:235–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernard HA, Major CF, Parrott BS, LeBlanc RJ (1970) Recent sediments of Southeast Texas: a field guide to the Brazos alluvial and deltaic plains and the Galveston barrier island complex. Guidebook no. 11. Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas, AustinGoogle Scholar
  4. Buynevich IV (2013) Barrier systems along the New England Coast, U.S. (paraglacial). In: McBride RA et al (eds) Morphodynamics of barrier systems: a synthesis. Treatise of geomorphology, vol 10. Academic, San Diego, pp 177–180Google Scholar
  5. Davies JL (1980) Geographical variation in coastal development, 2nd edn. Longman, New York, 212 pGoogle Scholar
  6. Davis RA Jr (ed) (1994) Geology of Holocene barrier island systems. Springer, Berlin, 464 pGoogle Scholar
  7. de Beaumont E (1845) Leçons de geologic pratique. Paris, professées au Collége de France, pp 223–252Google Scholar
  8. Fisher JJ (1968) Barrier island formation: discussion. Geol Soc Am Bull 79:1421–1426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. FitzGerald DM, Rosen PS (eds) (1987) Glaciated coasts. Academic, San Diego, 364 pGoogle Scholar
  10. FitzGerald DM, van Heteren S (1999) Classification of paraglacial barrier systems: coastal New England, USA. Sedimentology 46:1083–1108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. FitzGerald DM, Rosen PS, van Heteren S (1994) New England barriers. In: Davis RA Jr (ed) Geology of Holocene barrier island systems. Springer, Berlin, pp 305–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Forbes DL, Syvitski JPM (1994) Paraglacial coasts. In: Carter RWG, Woodroffe CD (eds) Coastal evolution: late Quaternary shoreline morphodynamics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 373–424Google Scholar
  13. Gilbert GK (1885) The topographic feature of lake shores. 5th annual report. U.S. Geologic Survey, Washington, DC, pp 69–123Google Scholar
  14. Hayes MO (1979) Barrier island morphology as a function of tidal and wave regime. In: Leatherman SP (ed) Barrier islands: from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. Academic, New York, pp 1–28Google Scholar
  15. Hayes MO (1994) The Georgia Bight barrier system. In: Davis RA Jr (ed) Geology of Holocene barrier island systems. Springer, Berlin, pp 233–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hein CJ, FitzGerald DM, Carruthers EA, Stone BD, Gontz AM, Barnhardt WA (2012) Refining the model of barrier island formation along a paraglacial coast in the Gulf of Maine. Mar Geol 307:40–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hein CJ, FitzGerald DM, de Souza LHP, Georgiou IY, Buynevich IV, Klein AHF, de Menezes JT, Cleary WJ, Scolaro TL (2016) Complex coastal change in response to autogenic basin infilling; an example from a sub-tropical Holocene strandplain. Sedimentology 63:1362–1395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoyt JH (1967) Barrier island formation. Geol Soc Am Bull 78:1123–1136Google Scholar
  19. Inman DL, Nordstrom CE (1971) On the tectonic and morphologic classification of coasts. J Geol 79:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson DW (1919) Shore processes and shoreline development. Wiley, New York, 584 pGoogle Scholar
  21. Jol HM, Smith DG, Meyers RA (1996) Digital ground penetrating radar (GPR): an improved and very effective geophysical tool for studying modern coastal barriers (examples for the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Coasts, U.S.A.). J Coast Res 12:960–968Google Scholar
  22. King CAM (1972) Beaches and coasts, 2nd edn. Edward Arnold, London, 570 pGoogle Scholar
  23. Kraft JC, John CJ (1979) Lateral and vertical facies relations of transgressive barriers. Bull Am Assoc Pet Geol 63:2145–2163Google Scholar
  24. Leatherman SP (1979) Barrier island handbook. Environmental Institute, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, 101 pGoogle Scholar
  25. McBride RA, Byrnes MR, Hiland MW (1995) Geomorphic response-type model for barrier coastlines: a regional perspective. Mar Geol 126:143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McBride RA, Anderson JB, Buynevich IV et al (2013) Morphodynamics of barrier systems: a synthesis. In: Shroder J (Editor in Chief), Sherman DJ (ed) Treatise on geomorphology. Coastal and submarine geomorphology, vol 10. Academic, San Diego, pp 166–244Google Scholar
  27. Moslow TF, Colquhoun DJ (1981) Influence of sea-level change on barrier island evolution. Oceanis 7:439–454Google Scholar
  28. Penland S, Suter JR, Boyd R (1988) The transgressive depositional systems of the Mississippi River delta plain: a model for barrier shoreline and shelf sand development. J Sediment Petrol 58:932–949Google Scholar
  29. Reinson GE (1984) Barrier island and associated strand-plain systems. In: Walker RG (ed) Facies models. Geoscience Canada reprint series 1. pp 119–140Google Scholar
  30. Reinson GE (1992) Transgressive barrier island and estuarine systems. In: Walker RG, James NP (eds) Facies models: response to sea level change. Geological Association of Canada, pp 179–194Google Scholar
  31. Roy PS, Cowell PJ, Ferland MA, Thom BG (1994) Wave-dominated coasts. In: Carter RWG, Woodroffe CD (eds) Coastal evolution: late Quaternary shoreline morphodynamics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 121–186Google Scholar
  32. Schwartz ML (1972) Spits and bars. Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, Stroudsburg, 452 pGoogle Scholar
  33. Schwartz ML (1973) Barrier islands. Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, Stroudsburg, 451 pGoogle Scholar
  34. Tanner WF (1995) Origin of beach ridges and swales. Mar Geol 129:149–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thom BG (1984) Transgressive and regressive stratigraphies of coastal sand barriers in southeast Australia. Mar Geol 56:137–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van Heteren S, van de Plassche O (1997) Influence of relative sea-level change and tidal-inlet development on barrier-spit stratigraphy, Sandy Neck, Massachusetts. J Sediment Res 67:350–363Google Scholar
  37. van Heteren S, FitzGerald DM, Barber DC, Kelley JT, Belknap DF (1996) Volumetric analysis of a New England barrier system using ground-penetrating radar and coring techniques. J Geol 104:471–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. van Heteren S, FitzGerald DM, McKinlay PA, Buynevich IV (1998) Radar facies of paraglacial barrier systems: coastal New England, USA. Sedimentology 45:181–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zenkovich VP (1967) Processes of coastal development. Oliver and Boyd, EdinburghGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environment SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA