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Coastal Terms

Barrier Island - elongated, narrow landforms composed of sand and other lose sediments transported by waves, currents, and winds.

Bathymetric - referring to the bottom topography.

Beach - zone of active sand movement.

Beach renourishment - pumping sand onto the beach and building up former dunes and upper beach.

Dune fields - open, bare-to-grassy sand-dune areas found between the primary dunes and the maritime forest or the sound side of the island.

Erosion - the wearing away of soil, sand, or rock by the influence of water, wind, and other forces of nature.

Escarpment - steep slope

Foredune - the first dune formed on the beach.

Groin - wall built perpendicular to the shoreline intended to trap sand flowing in the alongshore current.

Inlets - channels that separate islands and are usually formed during hurricanes or severe storms.

Jetty - structure intended to keep sand from flowing into a ship channel.

Marshes - prolific breeding areas for many fish located on the sound side of barrier islands.

Microbial mat (algal mat) - an active biogeochemical zone a few millimeters thick and found in marshes; produces its own nitrogen through a process of nitrogen fixation.

Littoral drift - movement of sediments.

Overwash (fans) - develop when water, thrown up by waves and storm surge, flows between and around dunes.

Peat - partially decayed plant material.

Primary dunes - the row of dunes closest to the ocean; however, a distinct line or row may be absent.

Revetment - a structure designed to stabalize an eroding shoreline and protect agiainst storm wave attack.

Runnel - the trough between the beach and the ridge.

Seawall - hard barrier designed to receive at least one full impact of the sea during a tidal cycle.

Sediments - matter or particles deposited by wind and water.

Sound - a channel of water between the mainland and a barrier island.

Spit - a pointed area formed on the ends of barrier islands by transported sediments.

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©1998, Alec M. Bodzin for the Science Junction, NC State University. All rights reserved.

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