Morphological evolution of the sandspit at Tortugueros Beach, Mexico.

Mireille Escudero, Rodolfo Silva-Casarin, Patrick Hesp, Edgar Mendoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Sand spits occur around the world with different shapes, dimensions and dynamics. While usually considered non-developable coastal features, development has taken place in several locations around the world, and because spits are often very dynamic, a better understanding of their behaviour and evolution is useful. Understanding their stability and morphological cycles can be used as a measure of the health of nearby beaches. The inter-annual and decadal morphological evolution of the beach spit at Tortugueros, on the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, a re-entrant bay on the Isla del Carmen barrier system, is examined. Digitized information from satellite images and aerial photographs, covering a 31 year period, was used to compare the shoreline evolution with numerical results. The method used consists of the estimation of the wave breaking conditions and the evaluation of the cross and longshore energy flux. The time-averaged wave energy flux allows the estimation of the evolution of those morphological features. The shoreline changes are very dramatic, with rates of accretion up to 160 m yr-1 and erosion up to 196 m yr-1. The results of the comparative analysis show that Tortugueros beach is a resilient system in dynamic equilibrium, governed by the combination of the short period local marine climate of the area and large-scale weather cycles related to the El Niño and La Niña phenomena. The analysis presented in this paper is valid to describe the functioning and resilience of dynamic beach systems elsewhere, where the wave climate is known, based on the wave energy flux of the breaking waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-31
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Barrier spit
  • Satellite images
  • Cyclic behaviour
  • Wave energy flux
  • ortugueros beach processes
  • Mexico
  • Laguna de Terminos


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