Coastal Environments

Great Egret in a pond, Everglades, Fla


Barrier Island Ecosystems

Barrier islands are relatively small and very dynamic landforms, yet a number of unique ecosystems can be found successively from the ocean side to the bay side of the feature. Each barrier ecosystem changes over time with the effects of storms and coastal processes.

Barrier islands include sandy beaches, forests, and marshes on the bay side. Dunes and various types of vegetation are affected by salt water, whether in waves or overwash sediment. Despite the volatility of this coastal environment, plants and animals, including rare and endangered species, make their home on barrier islands.

Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Barrier Formation

Barrier Formation
Source: National Park Service

Assateague Island

Assateague Island is one of the last undeveloped barriers along the Atlantic coast. It is frequented by many species of birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, and it provides habitat for the endangered piping plover. The island is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.