Natural Resource Management at South Topsail Beach, NC
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The undeveloped southern tip of Topsail Island, NC, known as South Topsail Beach, has been accreting land and extending southwest into New Topsail Inlet at the rate of approximately 100 feet per year for the past decade, growing to its current size of roughly 135 acres. The dynamic coastal processes that dominate this landscape create habitat that the federally threatened shorebird the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), and the annual plant seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) depend on for survival. Human disturbance and loss of habitat due to shoreline stabilization are among the biggest threats to success of these species throughout their habitat range. This Masters Project, in the form of a management plan, seeks to address the needs of these threatened species, while allowing for traditional and passive recreational uses at South Topsail Beach. In an effort to better understand shoreline change at this location, and to inform management recommendations for South Topsail Beach, a geospatial analysis using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) data was performed. Areas of erosion and accretion on both sides of New Topsail Inlet were identified and volumetric change was calculated for the years 1996 through 2005. Beach profiles were created to more closely examine spatial changes. Monitoring shoreline change over time can be used as a management tool to indicate habitat size and quality on a local level. On a broader scale, this type of analysis may be used to identify additional undeveloped dynamic inlet habitat appropriate for conservation.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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