Coastal Barrier Islands
Why They Are Important
Barrier islands are relatively narrow strips of sand that run parallel to the mainland, creating secondary bodies of water between the island and the shore. Barrier islands protect the mainland against high winds, waves, and tidal energies. They absorb the eroding forces of storms, forming a buffer zone that traps sand and deflects water.
Their presence also creates unique inland environments of relatively low energy, brackish water. Multiple wetland systems such as lagoons, estuaries, and/or marshes can result from such conditions depending on the surroundings. Without barrier islands, these wetlands could not exist and would be destroyed by daily ocean waves and tides.
Pensacola Beach is a barrier island, and its presence has helped create the unique ecology of Santa Rosa Sound and other inland water systems, all while protecting the mainland.