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Keywords:

  • coupled natural/human systems;
  • coastal processes;
  • spatial interactions;
  • dynamical systems;
  • beach nourishment

Abstract

[1] Shoreline erosion is a natural trend along most sandy coastlines. Humans often respond to shoreline erosion with beach nourishment to maintain coastal property values. Locally extending the shoreline through nourishment alters alongshore sediment transport and changes shoreline dynamics in adjacent coastal regions. If left unmanaged, sandy coastlines can have spatially complex or simple patterns of erosion due to the relationship of large-scale morphology and the local wave climate. Using a numerical model that simulates spatially decentralized and locally optimal nourishment decisions characteristic of much of U.S. East Coast beach management, we find that human erosion intervention does not simply reflect the alongshore erosion pattern. Spatial interactions generate feedbacks in economic and physical variables that lead to widespread emergence of “free riders” and “suckers” with subsequent inequality in the alongshore distribution of property value. Along cuspate coastlines, such as those found along the U.S. Southeast Coast, these long-term property value differences span an order of magnitude. Results imply that spatially decentralized management of nourishment can lead to property values that are divorced from spatial erosion signals; this management approach is unlikely to be optimal.