Barrier islands are among the most popular properties in the world. They are also among the most valuable real estate. This narrow strip of land that separates the ocean from the mainland is also among the most popular places in the world to visit because it is fronted by essentially continuous beaches. In addition, the landward side of barriers is commonly covered by wetlands that are nursery grounds to many species of shellfish and finfish. The barrier islands provide a very important physical protection to the mainland that is typically occupied by intense and varied development.
In this book the topic of barriers will be used to include barrier spits also not just those barriers that are not connected to any land. These two types of barriers are the same in all other ways; they contain the same specific environments. Barriers are present throughout the globe, from the Equator to the Arctic and Antarctic. They account for 15% of the length of the global coast. These barriers are most extensive on trailing edge coasts and mediterraneans, both tectonically stable regions. They are present but generally short and in the form of barrier spits on leading edge coasts such as the west coast of the United States. Nearly all of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States are lined by barrier islands. One of the most interesting portions of the Gulf Coast is the Gulf side of the Florida peninsula which is the topic of this book. It is considered to be home to the most diverse and interesting barrier island system in the world.