St. Elizabeth, Jamaica - Geomorphic Shoreline Classifications


This study will assess the patterns, causes, and risks of shoreline erosion along Galleon Harbor Fish Sanctuary in Black Bay on the south coast of Jamaica. Field data will be collected along 60 transects to assess beach form with auto-level and GPS surveys, vegetation assessments, and land use mapping. The role of coral reefs and mangrove forest in enhancing shoreline stability will also be evaluated. The results will add to our understanding of beach erosion in the Caribbean and help to mitigate beach erosion problems. While beach erosion rates have been reported for this area based on remote sensing analysis (Zelzer, 2015), detailed information about the topography, vegetation, and substrate associated with specific shoreline types is presently lacking.


The specific objectives of the project are:

  1. Collect topographic shoreline profiles and classify substrate type and resistance along the entire shoreline of the fish sanctuary;
  2. Analyze field profiles to develop a classification system of typical shoreline morphologies that indicate the influence of both substrate, vegetation, and recent erosion-deposition history.
  3. Evaluate the geomorphic processes and resource threats associated with each shoreline type and make recommendations for monitoring and management goals for conservation purposes.

Town planners and sanctuary managers need information on the locations and causes of beach erosion so that they can better understand how to head off problems in the future and protect life, property, and critical biological habitats now. From the scientific perspective, this study will add to our understanding of the causes of shoreline erosion and their spatial variability at both the local and regional scale. Another significant attribute of this study will be the close partnership between MSU and Breds Foundation, a local community group headquartered in Treasure Beach, in developing a geotourism plan for the sanctuary that enhances economic opportunities for surrounding residents.