Have you ever been to the beach?
Then, if you live on the Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico coast of the US, there is a chance that you have visited a barrier island.

Barrier island

Barrier islands are islands made of sand or sediment that lay parallel to much of the Atlantic mainland coastline from Maine to Mexico, and the Gulf of Mexico mainland coastline from Florida to Texas. They are also found worldwide with a total of 2,149 barrier islands globally.

For natural resources, barrier islands are valuable because they provide unique coastal habitats for plants and animals. They also help block storms from causing damage to mainland communities and properties, and provide recreation for people to swim, fish, hike, and camp.

Some barrier islands have large developments on them with hotels, shopping malls, vacation homes, amusement parks, and much more. Others have been left undeveloped as national or state parks where the natural resources are managed and protected.
One of the last Atlantic barrier islands that is undeveloped—Assateague Island

Bill Hulslander, National Park Service (NPS) Chief of Resource Management at Assateague Island National Seashore, introduces us to this barrier island. The NPS manages and protects the natural resources of this park, while providing a wide range of recreational and educational choices for visitors.

Nature shapes Assateague Island
Assateague Island is a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia on the Atlantic Ocean. Built by sand that persistent waves have raised from the ocean's floor, the island is reshaped and moved by ocean waves and wind. Constantly rearranged by these natural forces of change, Assateague Island is one of the world's most dynamic places.

wild horsesBarrier island

Treasures at the ocean's edge
Despite its relatively small size, less than 7284 ha (18,000 acres), a surprising array of habitats and natural features can be found on Assateague Island.

Explore the natural resources and human activities on Assateague Island by clicking on the diagram and legend below.

Conceptual diagram of a barrier island

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Experience the module at its best
We recommend that you explore the module by going through page by page in sequence. You will get a sense of its structure and dynamic features. To get the maximum quality on the videos, click on the HD icon before you view them. We hope you will find the Barrier Islands and Sea-level Rise module a fun and interesting learning experience.