Dunes help protect coastal communities from storms, but they can also be severely damaged during these events through breaching and erosion. While there is often a desire for beach re-nourishment and dune restoration immediately following a storm, dunes may recover naturally over time, and a new tool called Windsurf predicts how long the recovery will take.
Dune growth has mainly been attributed to wind driven processes. However, other forces control how the dune will grow and shift. In a recently published study, NCCOS-funded scientists take into account these other forces using the Windsurf model. For instance, water movement controls sediment accumulation, and how wet the sand is determines how much of it can actually blow into or out of the dune.
The researchers used Windsurf to hindcast dune movement for a one-year period at a site in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, during which the model successfully simulated dune evolution. The model may save coastal communities from having to immediately re-nourish a beach after a storm if it shows the beach replenishing itself in a few months. Coastal managers are currently using the tool to make decisions about barrier islands in North Carolina.
This research is a product of the NCCOS Ecological Effects of Sea level Rise (EESLR) project Modeling Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Natural and Managed Beaches and Dunes.