Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Rains, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Luther, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Dean Rosati, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Weiming Wu, Ph.D.


inlet bypassing, morphodynamics, RSM, sediment transport


Tidal inlets on sandy shorelines separate barrier islands and serve as a conduit for transport of sand and water between embayments and oceans, seas, or other tidally influenced waterbodies. Tides and waves induce currents along the coastline that transport sediment across-shore and alongshore. Coastal managers must optimize barrier-inlet system stability while conserving limited sediment resources, and often base management decisions and engineering design upon geomorphic and numerical models that predict the morphological behavior of tidal inlets on short-to-medium timescales (years to decades). The overall goal of this study was threefold. First, to provide science-based practical guidance for regional sediment management in the vicinity of tidal inlets. Secondly, to enhance the understanding of the temporal and spatial scales of sediment pathways in these regions through numerical simulation of traced sediment transport. And, third, to combine these lessons learned in both regional sediment management and analysis of morphodynamic and sediment bypassing pathways with application to a common practical management practice of inlet shoal mining and adjacent beach placement.

The temporal and spatial scales controlling the morphodynamics of barrier-inlet systems were reviewed within a regional sediment management context. Next, the application of regional sediment management methods to case studies of multiple barrier-inlet systems in West-Central Florida led to the development of a decision-support tool for regional sediment management (RSM) as applied to barrier-inlet systems. Connecting multiple barrier islands and inlets at appropriate spatio-temporal scales is critical in developing an appropriately scoped sediment management plan for a barrier-inlet system. Evaluating sediment bypassing capacity and overall inlet morphodynamics can better inform regional sand sharing along barrier-inlet coastlines; particularly where sediment resources are scarce and a close coupling between inlet dredging and beach placement is vital to long-term sustainable management. Continued sea-level rise and anthropogenic activities may intensify the need for investigating longer-term processes and expanding regional planning at a centennial timescale, and are acknowledged as challenging tasks for RSM studies going forward. A regionally focused, multi-inlet study was necessary to improve the management plans for the case study inlets (from north to south): John’s Pass, Blind Pass, Pass-a-Grille Inlet, and Bunces Pass. Key recommendations based on the case studies include: 1) allow the natural sediment bypassing to be re-established at Blind Pass inlet through reduced ebb-tidal delta mining, 2) reduce the interruption to sediment bypassing at John’s Pass and Pass-a-Grille inlets through an improved design of the dredged mining areas located along sediment bypassing pathways, 3) allow for continued natural sediment bypassing at Bunces Pass, and, 4) incorporate the cyclic sediment bypassing through swash-bar attachment into the management plan at Bunces Pass and adjacent barrier-islands. Similar systems in other regions may benefit from the lessons derived in this case study of an adaptively managed multi-inlet system.

A numerical model that computes hydrodynamics, sediment transport, and morphodynamics including bed layering was incorporated in this study to analyze sediment transport pathways between littoral sources from adjacent beaches and the geomorphic features of an idealized tidal inlet designed to imitate the John’s Pass tidal inlet in West-central Florida, USA. This study developed a methodology to numerically trace sediment transport, deposition and erosion. This method was applied to investigate sediment-bypassing pathways under varying temporal and spatial scales. The analyses of the adjacent beach’s contribution to tidal inlet sediment bypassing demonstrated variable temporal scales on sediment transport and exchange. High-energy wave events dominated the temporal scale for sand to be transported from the updrift beach to the ebb-tidal delta, whereas cyclical tidal processes had a significant influence on the spatial pattern of exchange between the shoals and channel features of the tidal inlet. The ability to simulate burial and erosion of tracers allowed identification of offshore sedimentation hotspots such as terminal lobe as well as zones of deposition and active transport in shallow water, such as the updrift channel margin linear bar and the downdrift platform of the ebb-tidal delta. The general sediment-bypassing pathway reflected a tidal-driven redistribution following event-driven pulses of wave-induced sediment mobilization. Sediment was transported along the beach during these energetic wave events. Flood- and ebb-tidal currents transported the sediment mobilized by high waves into the inlet channels. This was followed by subsequent gradual redistribution of the deposited channel sediments over the ebb-tidal delta features during fair-weather conditions.

The modeling methods were then applied to investigate the sediment pathways and bypassing processes for three validated numerical models of coastal tidal inlets that span a range of forcing conditions. The processes that influence sediment transport along various pathways between the several morphological features of each inlet and its adjacent beaches were examined. The sediment tracing methodology employed in this study allowed for an evaluation of the sediment transport pathways between the various morphologic features of a tidal inlet, as well as their respective processes that drive the exchange of sediments. Characterizing and correlating the sediment pathways between tidal inlet morphologic features can improve the inlet reservoir model, which is a predictive model of inlet shoal volumes based on empirical formulae. The results of this study illustrate the value of including sediment-tracking techniques in simulating sediment bypassing and the potential of this application to inform coastal engineering and design modifications to sediment reservoirs of tidal inlets.

And, finally, the spatial patterns of transport and erosion and deposition of traced, littoral source sediment, were investigated using the same modeling framework to evaluate the design of ebb-tidal delta mining on sediment bypassing dynamics of a tidal inlet system based on an idealized model of John’s Pass, Florida. Seven mining areas were simulated with traced sediment sources from the updrift beach, downdrift beach, and adjacent shoals. The tracers’ migration pattern and mining area infilling were analyzed to depict the sediment bypassing pathways and their contributions to mining area infilling. Mining area recovery rates were highest along the channel margin linear bar, and decrease offshore and downdrift. Updrift sand sources contributed more to mining area infilling than downdrift sand sources. The position of the mining area in relation to the updrift or downdrift morphological features dictates whether it will receive primarily updrift- or downdrift-originating littoral sediment from the beach. The source of sedimentation within the mining areas is a combination of inlet-ward transport of beach sediment and nearby shoal sediment. Proximity to the inlet channel determined the degree to which sedimentation had originated from longshore transported beach sediment. This methodology can improve confidence in management decisions concerned with the sand-sharing capacity of barrier-inlet systems in a local and regional context.

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