Mapping Michigan's Coastal Dunes

Authors: Alan Arbogast*, Michigan State University, Clayton Queen, Michigan State University, Brad Garmon, Michigan Environmental Council
Topics: Geomorphology
Keywords: Geomorphology, GIS, Michigan, Great Lakes, Dunes
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Sand dunes are common along Michigan’s coastal zones and collectively are important landscapes in the contexts of tourism, biodiversity, and economic development. The dunes have been regulated since 1976 in accordance with the Michigan Sand Dune Protection and Management Act. This legislation was subsequently amended in 1989 to address areas beyond the "barrier dunes" designated in the 1976 act to also include areas of dunes > 20’ high and encompassing at least 1.5 linear miles of shoreline, or which support exemplary dune associated plant communities. These areas were then designated as “critical dunes” and are thus the most visible deposits of coastal eolian sand to the public. This subjective articulation is exclusive, however, given the limiting criteria in the map unit. In fact, extensive deposits of coastal dune sand occur elsewhere in the state that have yet to be fully mapped. Although many of these areas adjoin critical-dune areas, others are spatially distinctive. This project fills this spatial void by providing a comprehensive map of Michigan’s coastal dunes, one that fully illustrates the spatial distribution of eolian sand along shorezones. Delineation of dunes was accomplished by using the highest resolution DEM available along coastal reaches as a base for digitizing. Decisions were also informed with aerial photography, NRCS SSURGO soils data, and field based identification at representative locations. Results were spatially and quantitatively compared to previous maps, including the critical dunes map. This comparison indicates that more than 35,000 hectares of previously unmapped coastal dunes were identified in this project.

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