A Bayesian Network to Predict Barrier Island Geomorphologic Characteristics

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Benjamin Gutierrez1, Nathaniel G Plant2, E Robert Thieler1, Aaron Turecek3 and Sawyer Stippa1, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)U.S Geological Survey, Coastal and Marine Science Center, Saint Petersburg, FL, United States, (3)Real Time Research, 52 SW Roosevelt Avenue, Bend, OR, United States
Understanding how barrier islands along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States respond to storms and sea-level rise is an important management concern. Although these threats are well recognized, quantifying the integrated vulnerability is challenging due to the range of time and space scalesover which these processes act. Developing datasets and methods to identify the physical vulnerabilities of coastal environments due to storms and sea-level rise thus is an important scientific focus that supports land management decision making. Here we employ a Bayesian Network (BN) to model the interactions between geomorphic variables sampled from existing datasets that capture both storm-and sea-level rise related coastal evolution. The BN provides a means of estimating probabilities of changes in specific geomorphic characteristics such as foredune crest height, beach width, beach height, given knowledge of barrier island width, maximum barrier island elevation, distance from an inlet, the presence of anthropogenic modifications, and long-term shoreline change rates, which we assume to be directly related to sea-level rise. We evaluate BN skill and explore how different constraints, such as shoreline change characteristics (eroding, stable, accreting), distance to nearby inlets and island width, affect the probability distributions of future morphological characteristics. Our work demonstrates that a skillful BN can be constructed and that factors such as distance to inlet, shoreline change rate, and the presence of human alterations have the strongest influences on network performance. For Assateague Island, Maryland/Virginia, USA, we find that different shoreline change behaviors affect the probabilities of specific geomorphic characteristics, such as dune height, which allows us to identify vulnerable locations on the barrier island where habitat or infrastructure may be vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise.