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Beaches of the Gulf Coast

Richard A. Davis

Publication Year: 2014

Much of the world’s population lives within thirty miles of a coast, and beaches are perhaps the most popular tourist destinations worldwide. The Gulf of Mexico is no exception: Millions of people make their homes nearby, and many of them spend considerable time at the beach, joined by millions more tourists and seasonal visitors.

In Beaches of the Gulf Coast, Richard A. Davis Jr., a veteran coastal geologist, explores the dynamics of beach formation, providing the reader with a basic understanding of the characteristics and behavior of the beach environment and what causes it to change. He compares natural beach environments with those that have experienced human intervention, and he profiles many of the common plants and animals that grow and live on and adjacent to the beach.

Following the coastline from the Florida Keys around the Gulf Coast to Varadero Beach in Cuba, Davis describes the major characteristics of beaches in each US state, with a final chapter on Mexico and Cuba. Focusing on public beaches, Davis emphasizes the special features of the beaches, indicating whether and how they are nourished—either naturally or artificially—and pointing out which beaches have problems and which ones are doing well.

Including photographs, satellite images, charts, and maps that reveal the natural processes of beach formation and erosion, Davis showcases the beauty of some of the Gulf’s “best” beaches, both popular and remote. Beaches of the Gulf Coast provides a broad range of basic knowledge for all who own beachfront property, who live near the beach, or who simply love the beach and want a better understanding of this special coastal environment.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Series, Sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi


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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Most of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the coast, and the most popular tourist destinations in the world are beaches. The Gulf of Mexico coast is no exception. Several million people live within the coastal zone of this region, and these residents, along with tourists and seasonal visitors, flock to the Gulf Coast to take advantage of the wonderful beaches, adjacent environments, and weather....

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Part I: General Characteristics and Dynamics of Beaches

Part I discusses the various elements of beaches, how they are formed, and how they behave. Beaches have been favorite places to visit for recreation for centuries, they are important to the fisheries industry, and they have been significant during international conflicts. Because of the importance of beaches, coastal scientists have been studying these environments all over the world. The size, morphology, behavior, and the level of wave energy that impacts beaches and adjacent coasts vary widely....

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1. Coastal Processes

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pp. 3-20

When we hear the word beach, the first thing that comes to mind is sand; the next is probably waves. Actually there are multiple processes that impact beaches and control their existence and appearance (figure 1.1). It is appropriate to begin with the most fundamental of these coastal processes: the weather. Then it is important to consider how the waves, which are a result of the weather, impact the beach. These waves also generate...

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2. Beach Geomorphology and Barrier Island Morphodynamics

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pp. 21-46

Beaches are one of the most dynamic of all surface environments on the earth. Changes can take place in literally seconds. Major changes are commonly the result of severe storms in only a day or so. This chapter discusses the nature of the beach, its morphology, the process-response systems that cause changes, and the way the beach interacts with the shallow nearshore environment in the seaward direction and the adjacent dunes in the landward direction....

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3. Beach Materials, Structures, and Sources

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pp. 47-64

The most common term associated with the beach is sand. True, most beaches are predominantly sand, but there are many other kinds of materials that can also be present in large amounts at some locations. In fact, the term sand denotes only grain size; it tells us nothing about the composition of the particles. Sand can be composed of a wide range of minerals. This chapter discusses the range of materials that constitute beaches: their textures, composition, and origins. This information will give us a much more comprehensive appreciation of the beach environment....

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4. Human Impact on Gulf Beaches

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pp. 65-90

Most of the world population lives within an hour’s drive of a beach. The influence of humans on the coast has been extensive and intensive, and it will continue in the future. The entire coastal system has been impacted by various human activities: the dunes, estuaries, tidal inlets, and most certainly, the beaches. This discussion includes the spectrum of human influence on the beaches going back to some of the early efforts to protect and/or control coastal change. Since the 1960s we have made changes in how...

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5. Common Animals and Plants of the Gulf Beaches and Surf Zone

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pp. 91-102

Although the beach and surf zone are very dynamic, they do have a community of organisms that is pretty similar throughout the Gulf Coast. Both the plants and animals must be adapted to fairly rigorous conditions: tidal fluctuations, wave attack, wind, little available freshwater, and predators. These conditions limit the diversity of organisms. This discussion does not consider the extremely mobile animals such as birds or fish. The emphasis is on the few common benthic organisms of the beach and surf zone,...

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Part II: Beaches Along the Gulf of Mexico Coast

The discussion of the beaches around the Gulf covers specific geographic areas: individual states in the United States, and Mexico and Cuba combined. Even though beaches have wide-ranging characteristics on a global basis, those of the Gulf of Mexico have many common features. With few exceptions the beaches are on barrier islands that surround the Gulf. All are exposed to microtidal conditions (tidal range <2 m), and all have low to moderate wave...

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6. Beaches of Florida

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pp. 105-142

Florida beaches can be easily subdivided into three distinct regions: the Keys, the Gulf peninsula, and the Panhandle. Each of these regions has its own characteristics and its own types of beaches. The three sections are also each oriented quite differently to the primary weather patterns, they have different offshore regions, and they experience hurricanes differently. It should also be noted that these regions are separated by extensive coastal reaches where beaches are rare and poorly developed: the Ten Thousand Islands mangrove system and the Big Bend coastal marsh system (figure 6.1)....

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7. Beaches of Alabama

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pp. 143-152

The coast of Alabama is not very long, but its beaches are almost all well developed. It extends from a portion of Perdido Key on the east through Dauphin Island across the mouth of Mobile Bay (figure 7.1). Like most of the northern Gulf Coast, the Alabama beaches have been severely eroded by tropical storms and hurricanes. Two recent hurricanes have resulted in major erosion of the beaches and destruction of built property: Ivan in 2004 and Katrina...

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8. Beaches of Mississippi

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pp. 153-166

The beaches of Mississippi are found on two distinctly different coasts: the mainland and four barrier islands that are several kilometers from the mainland (figure 8.1). None of the barrier islands is accessible by vehicle. For this reason and because they are mostly public land, the islands are pristine. A regular ferry schedule in spring and summer conveys people to West Ship Island, a federal park. The mainland beaches are among the most beautiful and best cared for along the entire Gulf of Mexico....

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9. Beaches of Louisiana

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pp. 167-178

The beaches of Louisiana are probably the least attractive and least visited on the entire Gulf Coast. This is primarily the result of the Mississippi River and delta dominating the coast of this state, and the fact that only one barrier island, Grand Isle, is accessible by vehicle. There are several kilometers of mainland beaches that are fairly popular....

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10. Beaches of Texas

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pp. 179-208

The Texas coast is essentially a continuum of beaches with tidal inlets scattered throughout (figure 10.1). With few exceptions, these beaches are on barrier islands that are no more than 7000 years old. Mainland beaches are present between Follets Island and Matagorda Peninsula. This is a distinctly wave-dominated coast with low to moderate energy and a mean annual wave height of about 0.5 m. Because the prevailing wind is from the southeast, much of the coast experiences a northeast-to-southwest longshore...

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11. Beaches of Mexico and Cuba

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pp. 209-224

Overall, the Gulf Coast of Mexico is relatively unpopulated and therefore rather pristine. Areas around population centers of Veracruz and Tampico are exceptions. This chapter considers some of the major places where people will visit. The discussion of the Mexican coast of the Gulf terminates in the Cancún vicinity....


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pp. 225-230


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pp. 231-234

Other Works in the Series, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781623491123
E-ISBN-10: 1623491126
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490386

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Series, Sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
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OCLC Number: 885127936
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beaches of the Gulf Coast

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Subject Headings

  • Coasts -- Mexico, Gulf of.
  • Coastal zone management -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Coast changes -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Coastal ecology -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Beaches -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Gulf Coast (U.S.).
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