Tales of island tails: biogeomorphic development and management of barrier islands

Alma V. de Groot*, Albert P. Oost, Roos M. Veeneklaas, Evert Jan Lammerts, Willem E. van Duin, Bregje K. van Wesenbeeck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Frisian islands (Southern North Sea) have extensive island tails, i.e. the entire downdrift side of an island consisting of salt marshes, dunes, beaches and beach plains, and green beaches. Currently, large parts of these tails are ageing and losing dynamics, partly due to human influence. This may mean a loss of young stages on the long term, and current management is not enough to counteract this. To aid the development of new interventions aiming at (re)introducing natural dynamics, a conceptual model of island-tail development under natural and disturbed conditions was developed, based on existing data, field visits and literature. The development of an island tail follows the general pattern of biogeomorphic succession. The first phase consists of a bare beach plain. In the second phase, embryonic dunes form. In the third phase, green beaches, dunes and salt marshes form, including drainage by creeks and washovers. In the fourth phase, vegetation succession continues and the morphology stabilises. Human interference (such as sand dikes and embankments) reduces natural dynamics and increases succession speed, leading to a reduction in the diversity in landforms and vegetation types. Both for natural and human-influenced island tails, succession is the dominant process and large-scale rejuvenation only occurs spontaneously when large-scale processes cause erosion or sedimentation. Island tails cannot be kept permanently in a young successional stage by reintroducing natural dynamics through management interventions, as biogeomorphic succession is dominant. However, such interventions may result in local and temporal rejuvenation when tailored to the specific situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-419
JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Dunes
  • Nature management
  • Salt marsh
  • Vegetation succession
  • Wadden Sea


Dive into the research topics of 'Tales of island tails: biogeomorphic development and management of barrier islands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this