Shoreline Changes Along the North Yucatán Coast

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by Klaus J. Meyer-Arendt, Mississippi State Univ, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico

Abstract: The north Yucatan coast in the vicinity of Progreso, consisting of a multiple beach ridge barrier complex backed by a wetland-fringed lagoon, has undergone many changes since the late 19th century. The sand-and-shell beaches are characterized by east-to-west longshore sediment transport but also shoreline retreat ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 m/yr. Natural coastal erosion is attributed to storm passage associated mostly with Arctic cold fronts (nortes) but also with occasional hurricanes. As a result of both port development and recreational urbanization, extensive shorefront engineering has taken place, and erosion rates locally have increased. Jetties constructed at the Yucalpeten safe harbor entrance caused increased downdrift erosion at the recreational communities of Chelem and Chuburna, and property owners responded by illegally placing groins (espollones) along the beach, a federal public easement. As the locus of illegal groin construction gradually moved westward, so did the zone of critical erosion. By the mid-1980s, local officials recognized the haphazard groins as causing increased erosion, and removal of groins had begun when Hurricane Gilbert struck in September 1988. Although the hurricane led to sand accretion along the north Yucatan beaches, most beachfront structures and groins were severely damaged by wind and waves. Four years later, the cleanup process continues. Between past engineering modifications and storms such as nortes and Hurricane Gilbert, the north Yucatan coast has suffered much environmental and aesthetic degradation, and more effective coastal management has been called for.

Subject Headings: Coastal management | Erosion | Shoreline | Groins (structure) | Sediment transport | Hurricanes and typhoons | Beaches | Transportation engineering | Wetlands (coastal) | Arctic

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