Annualmeeting:2017 CSDMS meeting-067

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Modeling Reef Island Profile Morphodynamics

Andrew Ashton, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole Massachusetts, United States. aashton@whoi.edu
Alejandra Ortiz, North Caroliona State University Raleigh North Carolina, United States. aleja.ortiz@gmail.com
Jorge Lorenzo Trueba, Montclair State University Montclair New Jersey, United States. lorenzotruej@mail.montclair.edu
Evan Goldstein, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina, United States. ebgold@live.unc.edu


[[Image:|300px|right|link=File:]]Reef islands are carbonate detrital landforms perched atop shallow reef flats of atolls and barrier reef systems. Often comprising the only subaerial, inhabitable land of many island chains and island nations, these low-lying, geomorphically active landforms face considerable hazards from climate change. Sea-level rise and wave climate change will affect sediment transport and shoreline dynamics, including the possibility for wholesale reorganization of the islands themselves. Here we apply a hierarchical modeling approach to quantify the potential responses of reef island systems to future changes. Using parameterizations of sediment transport pathways and feedbacks from previously presented XBeach modeling results, we investigate how sea-level rise, change in storminess, and different carbonate production rates can affect the profile evolution of reef islands, including feedbacks with the shallow reef flat that bounds the islands offshore (and lagoonward). Model results demonstrate that during rising sea levels, the reef flat can serve as a sediment trap, starving reef islands of detrital sediment that could otherwise fortify the shore against sea-level-rise-driven erosion. On the other hand, if reef flats are currently shallow (likely due to geologic inheritance or biologic cementation processes) such that sea-level rise does not result in sediment accumulation on the flat, reef island shorelines may be more resilient to rising seas. This simplified modeling approach, focusing on boundary dynamics and mass fluxes, including carbonate sediment production, provides a quantitative tool to predict the response of reef island environments to climate change.