Costas,s., Juan, B., Fernández, G,. Bon de Sousa, L,. Kombiadou, K,. (2023). Ecogeomorphic response of a coastal dune in southern Portugal regulated by extrinsic factors, Journal: CATENA, Volume 221, Part A

Coastal dunes are complex landforms whose morphology results from various interactions between biotic and abiotic factors. Here, we explore the longshore variability of the morphological features, plant community distribution and accumulation patterns of a dune segment (1.4 km-long) located at the downdrift end of a sandy peninsula in the Ria Formosa, Portugal. To understand the main drivers of the observed variability and the implications for dune morphological response, this information was combined with recent multidecadal shoreline evolution data. The integrated results document significant differences in dune morphology, sedimentation patterns and plant zonation, with two distinct dune configurations or states identified in close proximity. One (western sector) shows a narrower dune system, vegetation cover characterised by pioneer species with low densities, and squeezed plant zonation. Conversely, the other (eastern sector) presents a wider dune system with a new foredune, a more developed plant zonation and relatively high vegetation density. Both states could be partially explained by the recent shoreline trends and inlet shifts, with stable to retreating trends in the western sector and shoreline progradation in the eastern one. Plant zonation and accumulation patterns suggest that the dune along the retreating sector is in a cycle of inland migration, encouraged by the reduced accommodation space and the low retention capacity of the vegetation across the dune stoss. Alternatively, observations along the prograding sector suggest that the greater accommodation space and the stabilising feedback between vegetation and topography promoted the seaward progradation of the system and the development of an incipient foredune. Outcomes support the importance of biogeomorphic feedbacks for the dune configuration, but they also evidence that the role of vegetation within the feedback is primarily regulated by physical factors that ultimately promote or inhibit vegetation effects on dune topography.

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