The relative role of constructive and destructive processes in dune evolution on Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina, USA
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The relative role of constructive and destructive processes in dune evolution on Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina, USA

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  • Journal Title:
    Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
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    Coastal dunes are dynamic features that are continuously evolving due to constructive (e.g., wind‐ and wave‐driven sediment transport) and destructive (e.g., elevated total water levels during storm events) processes. However, the relative importance of these processes in determining dune evolution is often poorly understood. In this study, ten lidar datasets from 1997 to 2016 are used to determine the relative role of erosion and accretion processes driving foredune change on the coast of Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina, USA. Beach and dune morphometrics reveal that dune toe locations have generally retreated since 1997, while dune crest heights accreted by 0.01–0.02 m/year. We develop three univariate metrics that represent (1) the potential for erosion, i.e., total water level impact hours per year, (2) accretion, i.e., dune building hours per year, and (3) the relative net effect of foredune accretion and erosion processes, i.e., constructive–destructive dune forcing (CDDF) ratio, and test the correlative power of these metrics in explaining changes in foredune morphology. The total water level impact hours per year metric explained as much as 66% and 67% of the variance in dune crest and toe elevations, respectively, across the nearly two decades of dune evolution. The greatest number of dune building hours per year and largest dunes within the study site co‐occurred at locations exposed to the dominant cross‐shore wind direction as a result of varying shoreline orientation. The CDDF ratio was positively correlated to changes in the dune toe elevation in approximately 70% of dunes within the study site, outperforming the impact and dune building hours per year metrics. Our results show that these three metrics can provide first‐order estimates of dune morphometric change across multiple spatial and temporal scales, which may be particularly useful at sites where lidar acquisition is intermittent.
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    Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 46(14), 2824-2840
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