Municipal initiatives for managing dunes in coastal residential areas: A case study of Avalon, New Jersey, USA

Karl F. Nordstrom, Nancy L. Jackson, Michael S. Bruno, Harry A. De Butts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The characteristics of foredunes created in a municipal management program on a developed barrier island are evaluated to identify how landforms used as protection structures can be natural in appearance and function yet compatible with human values. Shoreline management zones include a naturally evolving, undeveloped segment; a noneroding, developed segment; eroding and noneroding segments of an "improved beach" where dunes have been built by artificial nourishment; and a privately built, artificially nourished dune on the shoreline of an inlet. A disastrous storm in 1962 resulted in an aggressive program for building dunes using sand fences, vegetation plantings, purchase of undeveloped lots, and sediment backpassing to maintain beach widths and dune elevations. The present nourished and shaped foredune in the improved beach is higher, wider, and closer to the berm crest than the natural dune. Restricted inputs of aeolian sand keep the surface flat and poorly vegetated. A stable section of this engineered shore has a wider beach, and sand fences have created a higher foredune with greater topographic diversity. The cross shore zonation of vegetation here is more typical of natural dunes, but the environmental gradient is much narrower. The privately built dune is low, narrow, and located where it could not be created naturally. Foreshore and aeolian sediments in the undeveloped segment and the improved beach are similar in mean grain size (0.16-0.21 mm) and sorting (0.31-0.39∅), but sediment on the surface of the nourished dune is coarser (28.1% gravel) with a more poorly sorted sand fraction (1.30∅) representing lag elements on the deflation surface. Willingness to enhance beaches and dunes for protection has reduced insurance premiums and allowed the municipality to qualify for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace lost sediment, thus placing an economic value on dunes. Success of the management program is attributed to: (i) timing property-purchase and dune-building programs to periods immediately after storms (causing residents to accept high dunes that restrict access or views); (ii) instituting a vigorous education program (reminding residents of hazards during nonstorm periods); (iii) maintaining control over local sediment supplies (to keep pace with erosion and create new shoreline environments); (iv) investing private and municipal economic resources in landforms (qualifying them for external funds for replacement); and (v) maintaining, augmenting, or simply tolerating biodiversity and natural processes (retaining a natural heritage).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Barrier island
  • Beach
  • Coastal vegetation
  • Foredune
  • Nourishment


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