2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)
Paper No. 33-10
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM-4:50 PM

TROUBLE IN PARADISE: COASTAL EROSION IN RINCÓN, PUERTO RICO

THIELER, E. Robert, Coastal and Marine Geology Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Science Center, 384 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543, rthieler@usgs.gov and RODRÍGUEZ, Rafael W., U.S. Geological Survey, 425 Jordan Rd, Troy, NY 12180

The picturesque coastline of Rincón, Puerto Rico is comprised of Quaternary alluvial deposits bounded by headlands of Tertiary rocks. The 8 km of sandy beaches between headlands are a mix of clastic and carbonate material derived from local rivers, erosion of alluvial uplands, and adjacent coral reefs. This coastal zone also has a bounty of natural and economic resources. Some of the best surfing breaks in the western North Atlantic are located here, where the insular shelf is only ~1 km wide. The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve lies just off the beach. A large public beach fronts the downtown area. Local fishermen's groups have facilities at several locations along the beach. A marina was constructed in the early 1980s. Several large tourist hotels have been built along the shoreline since the late 1990s.

Rincón also has a major coastal erosion problem. For the past 70 years, the central part of Rincon's shoreline has been retreating at about 1 m/yr. The human response to shoreline erosion has been a piecemeal seawalling of the shoreline to protect adjacent property. This has resulted in the narrowing or complete disappearance of many fronting beaches.

Long-term shoreline change data spanning 1936-2006 suggest that the relatively rapid rate of shoreline retreat in Rincón is not an entirely recent phenomenon, and likely predates most human modification of the shore. High-resolution lidar bathymetric data show a complex nearshore bathymetry, including elongate, shore-parallel troughs up to 20 m deep and a lobate sandy shoal that extends across the shelf. These features may strongly affect wave refraction, diffraction, and reflection in areas where erosion rates are the highest. Historical photographs show a wide array of complex wave patterns that suggest bathymetric effects on nearshore processes are a long-term, rather than recent, phenomenon. In addition, sand mining and shoreline armoring may be contributing to the expansion of the zone of most rapid erosion. Local government and community groups are keenly aware of the environmental and economic importance of healthy beaches. Data from previous and future studies should provide a foundation from which to identify the underlying causes of the observed erosion and develop potential adaptation strategies.

2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 33
Identifying America’s Most Vulnerable Oceanfront Communities: A Geological Perspective
Colorado Convention Center: 708/710/712
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Sunday, 28 October 2007

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 39, No. 6, p. 96

© Copyright 2007 The Geological Society of America (GSA), all rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to the author(s) of this abstract to reproduce and distribute it freely, for noncommercial purposes. Permission is hereby granted to any individual scientist to download a single copy of this electronic file and reproduce up to 20 paper copies for noncommercial purposes advancing science and education, including classroom use, providing all reproductions include the complete content shown here, including the author information. All other forms of reproduction and/or transmittal are prohibited without written permission from GSA Copyright Permissions.