Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geosciences

First Advisor

Daniel M. Deocampo

Second Advisor

Gale A. Bishop

Third Advisor

Dajun Dai

Fourth Advisor

Lawrence M. Kiage

Fifth Advisor

Robert K. Vance

Abstract

The current study has evaluated shoreline dynamics and environmental change at St. Catherines Island, Georgia, with attention to the two major controls of barrier island formation and modification processes. These major controls include the increase in accommodation space, or the rate of sea level rise for the Georgia Bight which has remained constant in 20th and 21st century tide gauge data and dynamically changing rates of sediment supply based on anthropogenic modifications to land cover (Trimble, 1974) that are reflected in sediment transport (McCarney-Castle et al., 2010). Vibracoring and radiocarbon data provided valuable insights into the stratigraphy and development of St. Catherines Island. A stratigraphic model has been developed for the sediments associated with the Late Holocene accretional terrains where multiple small scale fluctuations in sea level have resulted in the formation of a sedimentary veneer punctuated with transgressive surfaces and regressive sequences. A working model for an interpolated Late Holocene sea level curve has been constructed using direct evidence from vibracore data as constraining points and indirect evidence from other regional sea level studies to provide additional structure. The relationship between the timing of the regressions versus periods of beach ridge formation and implications from the current shoreline dynamics study regarding the role of sediment supply complement each other. The ages of beach ridge formation strongly correlate to periods that are associated with regressions in sea level based on the sedimentary record and an evaluation of Late Holocene sea level conditions. The evaluation of anthropogenic modifications to the rate of sediment supply performed under the current study indicates that in spite of significant changes in sediment flux rates of +300% (pre-dam era) and -20% (post-dam era), shoreline retreat was continuous during the study period with an acceleration noted in the rates of shoreline retreat associated with spit and berm landforms during the post-dam or modern era. The two associations indicate strongly that the rate of sediment supply plays a secondary role to the major control of the rate of sea level rise in the formation and modification processes at St. Catherines Island.

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