Historical Shoreline Changes in Response to Environmental Conditions in West Delaware Bay
French, Gregory T.
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This study quantified historical changes in the coastline of the west shore of Delaware Bay. Shoreline changes were measured through the compilation of historical maps and photographs utilizing the Metric Mapping technique. These changes were correlated with various environmental conditions and with human influences. The results portray a 135 year pattern of overall erosion, with long-term rates averaging -4.5 ftjyr, which is considerably greater than the u.s. Atlantic coast average. Coastal engineering (e.g., groins, jetties and beach nourishment) were locally effective in reducing erosion rates and in some cases promoting limited accretion. Perhaps more importantly, there were few associated negative effects alongshore suggesting that various forms of coastal engineering can be effective in a low-energy environment, even when done in a somewhat unorganized fashion. A correlation was found between erosion rates and underlying Pleistocene morphology. Where pre-Holocene sediments were exposed in the nearshore, erosion rates were lower. However, erosion rates were substantially higher along marshy shorelines. This erosion is not continuous either spatially or temporally, but instead is largely storm-driven. Periods of relative quiescence corresponded with lowered rates of average annual shoreline recession. With the exception of the northernmost marshy areas, severe erosion occurs along all shorelines, regardless of morphology, in response to major coastal storms.