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Beach and Dune Monitoring on Mustang Island by Tiffany Caudle and Jeffrey Paine
Port Aransas students collect data at three profile locations on Mustang Island: MUI01 near Horace Caldwell Pier, MUI02 in Mustang Island State Park, and MUI03 (Fig. 1). Port Aransas High School have been measuring these profiles since 1999.
The beach-monitoring activities of Port Aransas High School students have provided beneficial information about the beach and dune system on Mustang Island. The dune system on Mustang Island is healthy, with tall (> 3 m), wide foredunes along most of the island. The only breaks in the foredune system are at beach-access points and washover features. Since the beginning of the coastal monitoring program, Port Aransas students have been monitoring the growth of the foredune system at all three of their profiling sites (Figs 2, 3, and 4).
Beach maintenance practices vary along the island and have changed over time, which the students have documented through their data. Several beaches on Mustang Island, particularly within the City of Port Aransas boundaries, are regularly scraped to remove seaweed (Sargassum) from the forebeach. The MUI01 site was dune notched in 2012 and 2015, a beach beach-maintenance practice where sand is removed from the dune and replaced with sargassum and sand scraped from the beach over time (Fig. 2). MUI01 also has shore-parallel bollards that have been installed to confine vehicles to the upper portion of the backbeach. The placement of these bollards has restricted further seaward advancement of the foredune complex and the vegetation line by maintaining a fixed location of the Mustang Island Beach Road starting at the toe of the dune (Fig. 2). The beach road has also impacted the seaward extent of dune growth and vegetation line movement at MUI03 (Fig. 3). The beach maintenance practices and the impacts of the fixed position of the Mustang Island Beach Road will continue to be monitored by Port Aransas students at MUI01 and MUI03 and compared with the natural processes that occur at MUI02 in Mustang Island State Park (Fig. 4). Minimal beach maintenance is performed within the state park boundaries, only to keep the beach access points open.