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Conceptual models of the evolution of transgressive dune field systems

A. Hesp, Patrick
Geomorphology 2013 v.199 pp. 138-149
arid zones, basins, coasts, dunes, ecosystems, landscapes, models, sediments, trees, vegetation
This paper examines the evolutionary paths of some transgressive dune fields that have formed on different coasts of the world, and presents some initial conceptual models of system dynamics for transgressive dune sheets and dune fields. Various evolutionary pathways are conceptualized based on a visual examination of dune fields from around the world. On coasts with high sediment supply, dune sheets and dune fields tend to accumulate as large scale barrier systems with little colonization of vegetation in arid-hyper to arid climate regimes, and as multiple, active discrete phases of dune field and deflation plain couplets in temperate to tropical environments. Active dune fields tend to be singular entities on coasts with low to moderate sediment supply. Landscape complexity and vegetation richness and diversity increases as dune fields evolve from simple active sheets and dunes to single and multiple deflation plains and basins, precipitation ridges, nebkha fields and a host of other dune types associated with vegetation (e.g. trailing ridges, slacks, remnant knobs, gegenwalle ridges and dune track ridges, ‘tree islands’ and ‘bush pockets’). Three principal scenarios of transgressive dune sheet and dune field development are discussed, including dune sheets or dune fields evolving directly from the backshore, development following foredune and/or dune field erosion, and development from the breakdown or merging of parabolic dunes. Various stages of evolution are outlined for each scenario. Knowledge of evolutionary patterns and stages in coastal dune fields is very limited and caution is urged in attempts to reverse, change and/or modify dune fields to ‘restore’ some perceived loss of ecosystem or dune functioning.