Site: Virginia Coast Reserve LTER

Credit: Gordan Campbell at Altitude Gallery

Over the last 30 years, nearly half of the upland area on the barrier islands has changed from grassland to shrub thickets, similar to transitions observed in other drylands. For coastal systems, this transition is driven by regional climate (higher winter temperatures, lower precipitation) and shrub feedbacks on microclimate (warmer winter and cooler summer temperatures). Shrub thickets may reduce the ability of islands to build upward and migrate landward in response to sea-level rise and storms.