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Beach form influences beach function. The use of beaches by tourists, residents, and key species are influenced by geography and proximity, vegetation type and density, presence or absence of dunes, and substrate type. In order to better understand beach sustainability, we must first understand how the orientation and position of beaches influence wave energy that impacts beach type, accumulation, and sand erosion rates.


  • How do beaches change in relation to storm surges and other natural hazards?
  • How does mangrove vegetation as well as human use alter beach integrity?
  • How can beaches in the Galapagos be characterized relative to natural and human forces of change that influence beach shape and function?

People: Steve Walsh, Laura Brewington, Phil Page, and Brian Frizzelle 

The goals of the project are to (1) describe a beach vulnerability framework for assessing the Galapagos Islands, with implication for other similarly challenged island ecosystems, and (2) assess the collection and fusion of digital spatial technologies and corresponding data sets to assess beaches through the application of high spatial resolution, remote sensing systems, such as (a) WorldView 2 satellite imagery of coastal settings and nearshore bathymetry, (b) a 3-D laser scanner to measure terrain conditions through the generation of ultra-high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) and super dense point clouds, and (c) optical, multispectral, and thermal remote sensing systems on-board unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to assess animal use patterns of beaches, tourism visitation sites, and urban settings linked to local residents and national and international tourists. The social and ecological vulnerability of beaches is influenced by their geographic remoteness, land use/land cover, human use intensity, orientation to the ocean, geomorphology (i.e., beach form and nearshore bathymetry), terrain configuration, spatial and ecological connectivity, diversity and endemism relative to disturbances, and the human dimension linked to consumptive behaviors, economic development, and conservation management.