Barrier Island Systems — a Geologic Overview

  • Richard A. DavisJr.


Barrier island geology is complicated in that there are numerous distinct sedimentary depositional environments, some having lateral continuity and some that do not. It is further complicated by such variables a sea level change, sediment supply and the relative influence of wave- and tide-dominated processes.

Fortunately, there is also a great deal of predictability to barrier island geology and stratigraphy. The nature and relative positions of the depositional environments in question take on an orderly set of interrelationships that can be easily understood by even a modestly experienced coastal investigator. Although there is considerable additional complication that comes when one considers the recognition and nature of ancient buried barrier island systems from the strati-graphic record, the Holocene models are typically much less challenging to understand and manipulate.


Tidal Current Barrier Island Tidal Inlet Dune Ridge Landward Side 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrews PB (1970) Fades and genesis of a hurricane generated washover fan, St Joseph Island, central Texas coast. University of Texas, Bur Econ Geol Rep Invest 67, Austin, 147 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. Belknap DF, Kraft JC (1977) Holocene relative sea-level changes and coastal stratigraphic units on the northwest flank of the Baltimore canyon trough geosyncline. Jour of Sediment Petrol 47:610–629Google Scholar
  3. Belknap, DF et al. (12 authors) (1987) Late Quaternary sea-level changes in Maine. In: Nummedal D, Pilkey OH, Howard JD (eds) Sea-level fluctuation and coastal evolution, Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral Spec Publ 41:71–86Google Scholar
  4. Bigarella JJ (1972) Eolian environments-their characteristics, recognition and importance. In: Rigby JK, Hamblin WK (eds) Recognition of ancient sedimentary environments. Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral Spec Publ 16:12–62Google Scholar
  5. Bloom AL (1970) Paludal stratigraphy of Truk, Ponape, and Kusaie, Eastern Caroline Islands. Geol Soc Am Bull, 81:1895–1904Google Scholar
  6. Boothroyd JC (1985) Tidal inlets and tidal deltas. In: Davis RA (ed) Coastal Sedimentary Environments, 2nd edn. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 445–532Google Scholar
  7. Bruun P (1962) Sea level rise as a cause of shore erosion. Jour. Waterways Harbors Div., Am Soc Civil Eng Proc 88:117–130Google Scholar
  8. Bruun P (1978) Stability of tidal inlets: theory and engineering. Dev Geotech Eng 23, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 507 ppGoogle Scholar
  9. Castanares AA, Phleger FB (eds) (1969) Coastal lagoons. Ciudad Universitaria, Univ Nacion, Auton, Mexico, 686 ppGoogle Scholar
  10. Chappell J (1967) Recognizing fossil strand lines from grain size analysis. Jour Sediment Petrol 37:157–165Google Scholar
  11. Clifton HE, Hunter RE, Phillips RL (1971) Depositional structures and processes in the non-barred high-energy nearshore. Jour of Sediment Petrol 41:651–670Google Scholar
  12. Coleman JM, Smith SG (1964) Late recent rise of sea level. Geol Soc Am Bull 75:833–840Google Scholar
  13. Curray JR (1965) Late Quaternary history, continental shelves of the United States. In: Wright HE Jr, Frey DG (eds) The Quaternary of the United States. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 723–735Google Scholar
  14. Curray JR, Emmel RJ, Crampton PJS (1969) Holocene history of a strand plain, lagoonal coast, Nayarit, Mexico. In: Castanares AA, Phleger FB (eds) Coastal lagoons — a symposium..Univer Nacional Autonoma de Mexico/UNESCO, Mexico City, 35–43Google Scholar
  15. Dalrymple RW, Knight RJ, Zaitlin BA, Middleton GV (1990) Dynamics and facies model of a macrotidal sand-bar complex, Cobequid Bay-Salmon River Estuary (Bay of Fundy). Sedimentology 37:577–612Google Scholar
  16. Dalrymple RW, Makino Y, Zaitlin BA (1991) Temporal and spatial patterns of rhythmite deposition on mud flats in the macrotidid Cobequid Bay-Salmon River estuary, Bay of Fundy, Canada. In: Smith DG, Reinson GE, Zaitlin BA, Rahmani RA (eds) Clastic Tidal Sedimentology, Can Soc Petrol Geol Memoir 16: 137–160Google Scholar
  17. Davidson-Arnott RGD, Greenwood B (1976) Facies relationships on a barred coast, Kouchibouguac Bay, New Brunswick, Canada. In: Davis RA, Ethington RL (eds) Beach and nearshore sedimentation. Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral Spec Publ 24:149–168Google Scholar
  18. Davies JL (1964) A morphogenic approach to world shorelines. Ann Geomorphol 8:27–42Google Scholar
  19. Davis RA (1978) Beach sedimentation of Mustang and Padre Island, Texas: a time-series approach. J Gol 86:35–46Google Scholar
  20. Davis RA (1985) Beach and nearshore zone. In: Davis RA (ed) Coastal Sedimentary Environments. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 237–285Google Scholar
  21. Davis RA (1988) Morphodynamics of the west-central Florida barrier system: the delicate balance between wave and tide domination. Coastal Lowlands, Geology and Geotechnology, Kluwer Dordrecht, 225–235Google Scholar
  22. Davis RA, Ethington RL (eds) (1976) Beach and near-shore sedimentation. Soc Econ Paleontol Mineral Spec Publ 24, 187 ppGoogle Scholar
  23. Davis RA, Flemming BW (in press) Stratigraphy of a combined wave- and tide-dominated tidal flat system: Martens Plate, German Sea. In: Flemming BW (ed) Tidal Clastics ’92, Int Assoc Sed Spec PublGoogle Scholar
  24. Davis RA, Fox WT (1975) Process-response mechanisms in beach and nearshore sedimentation, I. Mustang Island, Texas. Jour Sediment Petrol 45:852–865Google Scholar
  25. Davis RA, Hayes MO (1984) What is a wave-dominated coast? Mar Geol 60:313–329Google Scholar
  26. Davis RA, Hine AC (1989) Quaternary geology and sedimentology of the barrier island and marshy coast, west-central Florida, USA. Int Geol Congr, Fieldtrip Guidebook #T375. Amer Geophys Union, Washington DC, 38 ppGoogle Scholar
  27. Davis RA, Kuhn BJ (1985) Origin and development of Anclote Key, west-peninsular Florida. Mar Geol 63:153–171Google Scholar
  28. Davis RA, Fox WT, Hayes MO, Boothroyd JC (1972) Comparison of ridge and runnel systems in tidal and non-tidal environments. Jour Sediment Petrol 42: 413–421Google Scholar
  29. Davis RA, Andronaco M, Gibeaut JC (1989) Formation and development of a tidal inlet from a washover fan, west-central Florida coast, USA Sediment Geol 65:87–94Google Scholar
  30. Davis RA, Knowles SC, Bland MJ (1989) Role of hurricanes in the Holocene stratigraphy of estuaries: examples from the Gulf Coast of Florida. Jour Sediment Petrol 59:1052–1061Google Scholar
  31. Dean RG (1987) Additional sediment input to the near-shore region. Shore Beach 55:76–81Google Scholar
  32. De Beaumont LE (1845) Lecons de geologie practique. Septieme lecon. Bertrand, Paris, pp 221–252Google Scholar
  33. Donoghue JF, Tanner WF (1992) Quaternary terraces and shorelines of the panhandle Florida region. In: Fletcher CH, Wehmiller JF (eds) Quaternary coasts of the United States: marine and lacustrine systems. Soc Econ Paleont Mineral Spec Pub 48, pp 233–241Google Scholar
  34. Emery KO (1968) Relict sediments on continental shelves of the world. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 52:445–464Google Scholar
  35. Fairbridge RW (1961) Eustatic changes in sea level. In: Physics and chemistry of the earth, vol 4. Pergamon Press, New York, pp 99–185Google Scholar
  36. Fairbridge RW (1992) Holocene marine coastal evolution of the United States. In: Fletcher CH, Wehmiller JF (eds) Quaternary coasts of the United States: marine and lacustrine systems. Soc Econ Paleont Mineral Spec Pub 48, pp 9–20Google Scholar
  37. Field ME, Duane DB (1976) Post-pleistocene history of the United States inner continental shelf: significance to origin of barrier islands. Geol Soc Am Bull. 98:691–702Google Scholar
  38. Fisher JJ (1968) Barrier island formation: discussion. Geol Soc Am Bull. 79:1421–1426Google Scholar
  39. FitzGerald DM, Nummedal D (1977) Ebb-tidal delta stratification. In: Nummedal D (ed) Beaches and barriers of the central South Carolina Coast. Coastal Sediments ’77, Field Trip Guidebook, Univ South Carolina, Columbia, 73 ppGoogle Scholar
  40. Flemming BW (1988) Process and pattern of sediment mixing in a microtidal coastal lagoon along the west coast of South Africa. In: DeBoer PL, VanGelder A, Nio SD (eds) Tide-influenced sedimentary environments and facies. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 275–288Google Scholar
  41. Freeman TJ (1962) Quiet water oolites from Laguna Madre, Texas. Jour Sediment Petorol 32:475–483Google Scholar
  42. Frey RW, Basan P (1985) Coastal salt marshes. In: Davis RA (ed) Coastal sedimentary environments. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 225–302Google Scholar
  43. Frey RW, Howard JD (1986) Mesotidal estuarine sequences: a perspective from the Georgia Bight. Jour Sediment Petrol 56:911–924Google Scholar
  44. Gallivan LB, Davis RA (1981) Sediment transport in a microtidal estuary: Matanzas River, Florida (USA). Marine Geol 40:69–83Google Scholar
  45. Gibb JG (1986) A New Zealand regional Holocene eustatic sea-level curve and its application to determination of vertical tectonic movements. Roy Soc N Z Bull 24: 377–395Google Scholar
  46. Gibbs AE, Davis RA (1991) Development and stratigraphy of Three Rooker Bar; a recently emergent barrier island, Pinellas County, Florida. Proc. GCSSEPM Foundation, 12th Ann Res Conf, Houston, pp 84–90Google Scholar
  47. Gibeaut JC, Davis RA (1991) Computer simulation modeling of ebb-tidal deltas. Coastal Sediments ’91, Am Soc Civil Eng, Seattle, pp 1389–1403Google Scholar
  48. Gilbert GK (1885) The topographic features of lake shores. US Geol Surv, 5th Ann Rep, pp 69–123Google Scholar
  49. Glaeser JD (1978) Global distribution of barrier islands in terms of tectonics setting. J Geol 86:283–297Google Scholar
  50. Godfrey PJ, Godfrey MM (1973) Comparison of ecological and geomophic interactions between altered and unaltered barrier island systems in North Carolina. In: Coates DR (ed) Coastal geomorphology. State University of New York, Binghamton, pp 239–258Google Scholar
  51. Goldsmith V (1985) Coastal Dunes. In: Davis RA (ed) Coastal sedimentary environments, 2nd edn, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 303–378Google Scholar
  52. Greenwood B, Davis RA (eds) (1984) Hydrodynamics and sedimentation in wave-dominated coastal environments. Developments in Sedimentology vol 39. Elsevier, New York, 473 ppGoogle Scholar
  53. Greer SA (1975) Sandbody geometry and sedimentary facies at the estuary-marine transition zone, Ossabaw Sound, Ga.: a stratigraphic model. Senckenb Marit 7:105–136Google Scholar
  54. Hayes MO (ed) (1969) Coastal environments, NE Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Eastern Section, SEPM Field Trip Guidebook, Univ Massachusetts, Amherst, 462 ppGoogle Scholar
  55. Hayes MO (1975) Morphology of sand accumulations in estuaries. In: Cronin LE (ed) Estuarine research, vol 2 Geology and engineering. Academic Press, New York, pp 3–22Google Scholar
  56. Hayes MO (1979) Barrier island morphology as a function of tidal and wave regime. In: Leatherman SP (ed) Barrier Islands, Academic Press, New York, pp 1–29Google Scholar
  57. Hayes MO (1980) General morphology and sediment patterns in tidal inlets. Sediment Geol 26:139–156Google Scholar
  58. Hayes MO, Kana TW (eds) (1976) Terrigenous clastic depositional environments. Tech Rep 11-CRC, Coastal Res Div, Univ South Carolina, Columbia, 302 ppGoogle Scholar
  59. Hayes MO, Hulme LJ, Wilson SJ (1974) The importance of tidal deltas in erosional and depositional history of barrier islands. Geol Soc Am, Abst Program 6:785Google Scholar
  60. Heron SD, Moslow TF, Berelson WM, Herbert JR, Steele III FA, Swanson DR (1984) Holocene sedimentation of a wave-dominated barrier-island shoreline: Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Mar Geol 60:413–434Google Scholar
  61. Hine AC, Evans MW, Davis RA, Belknap DF (1987) Depositional response to sea-grass mortality along a low-energy barrier-island coast: west-central Florida. Jour Sediment Petrol 57:431–439Google Scholar
  62. Hosier PE, Cleary WJ (1977) Cyclic geomorphic patterns of washover on a barrier island in southeastern North Carolina. Environ Geol 2:23–31Google Scholar
  63. Howard JD, Frey RW (1985) The importance of back-barrier sedimentary sequences, Georgia coast, USA, Mar Geol 63:77–127Google Scholar
  64. Hoyt JH (1967) Barrier island formation. Geol Soc Am Bull 78:1125–1135Google Scholar
  65. Hoyt JH (1968) Barrier island formation. Reply. Geol Soc Am Bull 79:947Google Scholar
  66. Hoyt JH (1969) Chenier versus barrier, genetic and stratigraphic distinction. Am Assoc Petrol Geol Bull 53:299–306Google Scholar
  67. Hubbard DK, Oertel GF, Nummedal D (1979) The role of waves and tidal currents in the development of tidal-inlet sedimentary structures and sand body geometry: examples from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. J Sediment Petrol 49:1073–1091Google Scholar
  68. Hubbard DK, Barwis JH (1976) Discussion of tidal inlet sand deposits: examples from the South Carolina coast. In: Hayes, MO, Kana TW (eds) Terrigenous clastic depositional environments. Tech Rep 11-CRD, Coastal Res Div, Univ South Carolina, Columbia, 11–128 to 11–142Google Scholar
  69. Hunter RE, Clifton HE, Phillips RL (1979) Depositional processes, sedimentary structures and predicted vertical sequences in barred nearshore systems, southern Oregon coast. J Sed Petrol 49:711–726Google Scholar
  70. Imperato DP, Sexton WJ, Hayes MO (1988) Stratigraphy and sediment characteristics of a mesotidal ebb-tidal delta, North Edisto Inlet, South Carolina. J Sediment Petrol 58:950–958Google Scholar
  71. Inman DL, Nordstrom CE (1971) On the tectonic and morphologic classification of coasts. J Geol 79:1–21Google Scholar
  72. Johnson DW (1919) Shoreline processes and shoreline development. John Wiley, New York, 584 ppGoogle Scholar
  73. King CAM, Williams WW (1949) The formational movements of sand bars by wave action. Geog J 113:70–85Google Scholar
  74. Klein GDeV (1972a) Determination of paleotidal range in clastic sedimentary rocks. Int Geol Cong, 24th Montreal 1972, Comptes Rendus, Sec 6, pp 397–405Google Scholar
  75. Klein GDeV (1972b) A sedimentary model for determining paleotidal range. Reply. Geol Soc Am Bull 83:539–546Google Scholar
  76. Knight RJ, Dalrymple RW (1975) Intertidal sediments from the south shore of Cobequid Bay, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada. In: Ginsburg RN (ed) Tidal Deposits. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 47–55Google Scholar
  77. Komar PD (1976) Beach processes and sedimentation. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 429 ppGoogle Scholar
  78. Kraft JC (1971) Sedimentary facies patterns and geologic history of a Holocene marine transgression. Geol Soc Am Bull 82:2131–2158Google Scholar
  79. Kumar N, Sanders JE (1974) Characteristics of nearshore storm deposits: examples from modern and ancient sediments. Am Assoc Petrol Geol, Ann. Meet, San Antonio, 1:55 (Abstr)Google Scholar
  80. Lynch-Blosse MA, Davis RA (1977) Stability of Dunedin and Hurricane passes, Florida. Coastal Sediments ’77, 5th Symp., Am Soc Civil Eng, Charleston, pp 744–789Google Scholar
  81. Mason CC, Folk RL (1958) Differentiation fo beach, dune and aeolian flat environments by size analysis, Mustang Island, Texas. J Sediment Petrol 28:211–226Google Scholar
  82. McBride EF, Hayes MO (1962) Dune cross-bedding on Mustang Island, Texas. Am Assoc Petrol Geol Bull 46:546–551Google Scholar
  83. McGee WD (1890) Encroachments of the sea. The Forum 9:437–449Google Scholar
  84. McGowan JH, Scott AJ (1975) Hurricanes as geologic agents on the Texas Coast. In: Cronin LE (ed) Estuarine Research vol 2. Academic Press, New York, pp 23–46Google Scholar
  85. Miller JA (1975) Facies characteristics of Laguna Madre wind-tidal flats. In: Ginsburg RN (ed) Tidal Deposits. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 67–74Google Scholar
  86. Moiola RJ, Spencer AB (1973) Sedimentary structures and grain size distribution, Mustang Island, Texas. Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc Trans 23:324–332Google Scholar
  87. Moslow TF, Heron SD (1978) Relict inlets: preservation and occurrence in the Holocene stratigraphy of southern Core Banks, North Carolina. J Sediment Petrol 48:1275–1286Google Scholar
  88. Nichols MM, Biggs RB (1985) Estuaries. In: Davis RA (ed) Coastal sedimentary environments. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 77–186Google Scholar
  89. Niederoda AW, Swift DJP, Figueiredo AG, Freeland GL (1985) Barrier island evolution, Middle Atlantic Shelf, USA part II: evidence from the shelf floor. Mar Geol 63:363–396Google Scholar
  90. Oertel GF (1975) Ebb-tidal deltas of Georgia estuaries. In: Cronin LE (ed) Estuarine Research vol 2, Academic Press, New York, pp 267–276Google Scholar
  91. Oertel GF, Kraft JC, Kearney MS, Woo HJ (1992) A rational theory for barrier-lagoon development. In: Fletcher CH, Wehmiller JF (eds) Quaternary coastal evolution of the United States: marine and lacustrine systems, Soc Econ Paleont Mineral Spec Pub 48, pp 77–87Google Scholar
  92. Otvos EG (1970) Development and migration of barrier islands, northern Gulf of Mexico. Geol Soc Am Bull 81:241–246Google Scholar
  93. Otvos EG (1981) Barrier island formation through nearshore aggradation — stratigraphic and field evidence. Mar Geol 43:195–243Google Scholar
  94. Otvos EG (1984) Alternate interpretations of barrier island evolution: Apalachicola coast, northwest Florida. Litoralia 1:9–22Google Scholar
  95. Otvos EG (1985) Barrier island genesis — questions of alternatives for the Apalachicola Coast, Northeastern Gulf of Mexico. J Coastal Res 1:267–278Google Scholar
  96. Owens EH (1977) Temporal variations in beach and nearshore dynamics. J Sediment Petrol 47:168–190Google Scholar
  97. Penland S, Boyd R, Suter JR (1988) Transgressive depositional systems of the Mississippi Delta plain: a mode for barrier shoreline and shelf sand development. J Sediment Petrol 58:932–949Google Scholar
  98. Postma H (1967) Sediment transport and sedimentation in the estuarine environment. In: Lauff GH (ed) Estuaries. Am Assoc Adv Sci Spec Publ 83, Washington, DC, pp 158–179Google Scholar
  99. Pritchard DW (1967) What is an estuary? Physical viewpoint. In: Lauff GH (ed) Estuaries. Am Assoc Adv Sci Spec Publ 83, Washington DC, pp 3–5Google Scholar
  100. Rampino MR, Sanders JE (1980) Holocene transgression in south-central Long Island, New York. J Sediment Petrol 50:1063–1080Google Scholar
  101. Ramsey MD, Galvin CJ (1971) Size analysis of sand samples from three southern New Jersey beaches. Rept Coastal Eng Res Center, Washington, DC, 50 pp (unpubl)Google Scholar
  102. Reineck HE, Wunderlich F (1968) Classfication and origin of flaser and lenticular bedding. Sedimentology 11: 99–104Google Scholar
  103. Reineck HE, Wunderlich F (1968b) Zeitmessungen und Bezeitenschickten. Natur Museum 97:193–197Google Scholar
  104. Reinson GE (1984) Barrier island and associated strand-plain systems. In: Walker RG (ed) Facies Models, 2nd ed, Geol Assoc Can, Toronto, pp 119–140Google Scholar
  105. Roy PS (1984) New South Wales estuaries: their origin and evolution. In: Thom BG (ed) Coastal geomorphology in Australia, Academic Press, Sydney, pp 99–121Google Scholar
  106. Rusnak G A (1960) Sediments of Laguna Mardre. In: Shepard FP, Phleger FB, Van Andel TH (eds) Recent sediments of the northwest Gulf of Mexico. Am Assoc Petrol Geol, Tulsa, pp 153–196Google Scholar
  107. Schwartz ML (1971) The multiple casuality of barrier islands. J Geol 79:91–94Google Scholar
  108. Schwartz RK (1975) Nature and genesis of some storm washover deposits. US Army, Corps of Engineers, Coastal Eng Res Center, Tech Memo 61, 69 ppGoogle Scholar
  109. Shepard FP (1963) 35000 years of sea level. In: Clements T (ed) Essays in Marine Geology. Univ of Southern California Press, Los Angeles, pp 1–10Google Scholar
  110. Swift DJP (1975) Barrier island genesis: evidence from the central Atlantic Shelf, eastern USA. Sed Geol 14:1–43Google Scholar
  111. Terwindt JHJ (1981) Origin and sequences of sedimentary structures in inshore mesotidal deposits of the North Sea. In: Nio SD, Schuttenhelm RTE, van Weering TjCE (eds) Holocene marine sedimentation in the North Sea Basin. Int Assoc Sed Spec Publ 5, pp 4–26Google Scholar
  112. Terwindt JHJ (1988) Paleo-tidal reconstructions of inshore tidal depositional environments. In: deBoer PL, van Gelder, A, Nio SD (eds) Tide-influenced sedimentary environments. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 233–264Google Scholar
  113. von der Borsch CC (1976) Stratigraphy and formation of Holocene dolomitic carbonate deposits of the Coorong area, South Australia. J Sediment Petrol 46:952–966Google Scholar
  114. van Straaten LMJU (1961) Sedimentation in tidal flat areas. J Alberta Soc Petrol Geol 9:203–226Google Scholar
  115. Visser MJ (1980) Neap-spring cycles reflected in Holocene subtidal large-scale bedform deposits: a preliminary note. Geology 8:543–546Google Scholar
  116. Warme JA (1971) Paleoecological Aspects of a Modern Coastal Lagoon. Univ Calif Geol Sci, Berkeley, vol 87, 131 ppGoogle Scholar
  117. Warren JK (1990) Sedimentology and mineralogy of dolomitic Coorong lakes, South Australia. J Sediment Petrol 60:843–858Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. DavisJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Coastal Research Laboratory, Department of GeologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations