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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-39
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-39
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 31 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 31 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Dynamic allometry in coastal overwash morphology

Eli D. Lazarus1, Kirstin L. Davenport1, and Ana Matias2 Eli D. Lazarus et al.
  • 1Environmental Dynamics Lab, School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, Highfield B44, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
  • 2Centre for Marine and Environmental Research, University of Algarve Campus of Gambelas, Faro, Portugal

Abstract. Allometry refers to a physical principle in which geometric (and/or metabolic) characteristics of an object or organism are correlated to its size. Allometric scaling relationships typically manifest as power laws. In geomorphic contexts, scaling relationships are a quantitative signature of organisation, structure, or regularity in a landscape, even if the mechanistic processes responsible for creating such a pattern are unclear. Despite the ubiquity and variety of scaling relationships in physical landscapes, the emergence and development of these relationships tend to be difficult to observe – either because the spatial and/or temporal scales over which they evolve are so great, or because the conditions that drive them are so dangerous (e.g., an extreme hazard event). Here, we use a physical experiment to examine dynamic allometry in overwash morphology along a model coastal barrier. We document the emergence of a canonical scaling law for deposit (washover) length versus area. Comparing the experimental features, formed during a single forcing event, to four decades of change in real washover morphology from the Ria Formosa barrier system, in southern Portugal, we show that features forming at the event scale might exhibit a different pattern of change over longer time scales. This work reinforces the potential importance of initial conditions in landscape evolution, such that a landscape may reflect characteristics associated with an equilibrium or steady-state condition even when features within that landscape do not.

Eli D. Lazarus et al.
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Short summary
Scaling relationships describe mathematically how two geometric traits of a geomorphic feature change relative to each other in a systematic way: how length changes with area in drainage basins and sedimentary deposits, for example. Here we demonstrate the emergence of scaling relationships in coastal overwash morphology. These findings may help to predict overwash deposition, and offer insight into how spatial patterns in overwash morphology may self-organise.
Scaling relationships describe mathematically how two geometric traits of a geomorphic feature...
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