Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Cailen Smith, 2011

Character and Morphodynamics of Barrier Beaches in Southwestern Nova Scotia


Barrier beaches are a common depositional feature along the coasts of Nova Scotia.  Much previous research about barrier beaches has been conducted along the province's Eastern Atlantic Coast.  Less however is known about the barrier beaches present in Southwestern Nova Scotia.  The character and morphodynamics of barrier beaches vary both spatially and temporally.  Due to this, beaches within the counties of Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne were studied at various scales to map their distribution, analyze decadal change and indicate seasonal variation and sediment characteristics.  Methodologies included the distribution mapping of 71 beaches, followed by a historical aerial photograph analysis of a sample of four beaches and finally the elevational profile data from two beaches were recorded four times from May to October 2010 to assess the seasonal variability.  This included the collection and analysis of 25 sediment samples per beach to characterize the sediment composition of each.  Results include an increase in beach frequency from Digby County to Shelburne County, the evidence of morphological change on a decadal scale at the four selected locations and differences in seasonal variability and sediment composition between the two locations examined on a seasonal basis.  These results reinforce the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia as an ideal location for barrier formation, evident by beach frequency.  When there are fluctuations in sediment budget, smaller barriers formations, such as spits and tombolos, are more reactive either prograding or retrograding, than welded barriers, that tend to remain stationary.  Finally, despite their close proximity, the two beaches examined seasonally, Bartlett's Beach and Port Maitland Beach, exhibit very different elevational profiles and have differing sediment characteristics.  Understanding the character and morphodynamics of barrier beaches within Southwestern Nova Scotia supplements the work previously accomplished elsewhere in the province.