Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Barrier Islands As They Should Be

A barrier island is just what it sounds like - large sand dunes along the ocean's edge which protect the land from the ocean's rampage during storms. Barrier islands are fragile, constantly changing ecosystems that are important for coastal geology and ecology. Development has posed dangers to these ecosystems and has also increased the risk of property damage every year from hurricanes. The Outer Banks in North Carolina have been heavily developed for people to live and vacation there. This year Hurricane Florence caused billions of dollars of damage because people built on the barrier islands.
The islands are separated from the main land by a shallow sound, bay or lagoon. Barrier islands are often found in chains along the coast line and are separated from each other by narrow tidal inlets, such as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Barrier islands protect the coastlines from severe storm damage. Second, they harbor several habitats that are refuges for wildlife.
Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world.  The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life.  It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for over 380 bird species. The islands are broad and covered in grass, so ranchers grazed cattle here until approximately 1970. If you didn't know the ocean was nearby, you would think you were in Kansas.
However, these grassy areas quickly fill with shallow basins of water, making important habitat for shorebirds. Don't pull of the road without checking for water first!
The best bird we found on our trip was a Long-billed Curlew! It was great to travel the dunes without see all the houses and condos.

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