Limited research has studied the use of Lidar in mapping coastal geomorphology. The purpose of this project was to build on existing research and develop an automated modeling approach to classify the coastal geomorphology of barrier islands and test this at four sites in North Carolina. Barrier islands are shaped by natural coastal processes, such as storms and longshore sediment transport, as well as by human influences, such as beach nourishment and urban development. An automated geomorphic classification model was developed to classify Lidar data into 10 geomorphic types over four time-steps from 1998 to 2014. Tropical storms and hurricanes had the most influence on change and movement. On the developed islands, there was less influence of storms, owing to the inability of features to move because of coastal infrastructure. Beach nourishment was the dominant influence on developed beaches, because this activity ameliorated the natural tendency of an island to erode. Understanding how natural and anthropogenic processes influence barrier island geomorphology is critical to predicting an island’s future response to changing environmental factors such as sea-level rise. The development of an automated model equips policy makers and coastal managers with information to make development and conservation decisions, and the model can be implemented at other barrier islands.
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