Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard A. Davis, Jr. Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric A. Oches, Ph.D.


sedimentation, barrier island, beach nourishment, beach erosion


Long Key, on the central western coast of Florida, has been nourished repeatedly since 1975. Following nourishment, the beach has rapidly eroded. This study documents rates, processes, and mechanisms for the rapid erosion. To better understand the beach performance, it is crucial to quantify the background erosion rate when artificial beach fill is at its minimum. This year long study from February 2003 through March of 2004 provides a detailed examination of the performance of a natural beach experiencing intense erosion.

The primary objective is to analyze the performance of Long Key through detailed investigation of shoreline and beach-volume changes at a time when the effects of the most recent nourishment in the summer of 2000 are a minimal influence, and the natural performance of the beach, i.e, the background erosion/accretion rate, can be determined. This study also examines, in detail, shore-parallel and cross-shore sediment properties in an attempt to link erosional, stable and accretional areas to sediment grain-size composition. Finally seasonal variations of the nearshore morphology and sediment properties of the Long Key beach were determined to identify the significance of seasonal variations on long-shore and cross-shore sediment transport. This study was conducted using monthly beach profile data and monthly sediment samples.

Net longshore sediment transport at the eroding north end (Upham Beach) is to the south at a rate of 34,000 cubic meters per year. Eighty-five percent of this sediment is deposited on the central and southern portions of the island, mainly in the central portion. This is an elevated sediment transport rate as compared to the generally accepted rate of 15,000 to 20,000 cubic meters per year, which explains the rapid erosion at the north end. The greatest volume loss occurs in the winter months, ostensibly due to the passage of winter storms. There is also no significant cross-shore sediment transport in the northern portion of Long Key, beach profile results demonstrate a stable shape. However, there is slight cross-shore sediment transport in the central and southern regions of the island. At location LK 3 in the north end of the island lost 35 meters of shoreline above NGVD and 25 meters below NGVD. At location LK 11 in the south end there was a gain of 3 meters above NGVD and 15 meters below NGVD. Based on detailed sediment analysis, it is not possible to determine distinctive and persistent temporal or spatial sediment characteristics, nor are the sediment properties of Long Key indicative of longshore sediment transport.