Decadal and seasonal changes in landcover at Padre Island: Implications for the role of the back-barrier in signaling island state change Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractLongterm and seasonal geomorphological changes at Padre Island, Texas are identified and linked with potential external drivers. Aerial and satellite images from 1950 to 2018, monthly images from 2019 to 2020, and a 2018 LiDAR data set are used to assess longterm and seasonal geomorphological changes within a 50km2 area of Padre Island near Port Mansfield, Texas. Trends in landcover are evaluated by mapping and comparing the relative areal coverage of each facies. Vegetated dunes, absent initially, emerged in the foreisland and expanded into the backbarrier to cover 14% of the study area. The active vegetationfree backbarrier dune field steadily decreased in areal extent from 12% to 6% as vegetation spread. Nebkha dune coverage fluctuated between 4% and 7%. Expansive microbial mats colonized the wind tidal and deflation flats surrounding the vegetated dunes and backbarrier dune field giving rise to a remarkably different landscape over the 50year period studied. An assessment of external forcing factors identifies increased rates of relative sea level rise and decreased sediment influx as the most likely primary factors driving the geomorphological changes. These changes have induced a widespread shift toward stabilization of island sediments by vegetation and microbial mats, which in turn has starved the backbarrier of sediments resulting in low rates of accretion and increased flooding. These findings highlight the sensitivity of the backbarrier and, in particular, the dune facies to changes in sea level and sediment supply, and show that microbial mats are effective at stabilizing island sediments and may be harbingers to barrier island response to rising sea level. As shown in this study, longterm monitoring of geomorphic facies changes and topography can detect important shifts in the island state that can be used to inform decision making for these sensitive coastal landscapes.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Fisher, K. R., Ewing, R. C., & Vinent, O. D.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Fisher, Kenton R||Ewing, Ryan C||Vinent, Orencio Duran

publication date

  • January 2023