Barrier islands are relatively small and very dynamic landforms, yet a number of unique ecosystems can be found successively from the ocean side to the bay side of the feature. Each barrier ecosystem changes over time with the effects of storms and coastal processes.
Barrier islands include sandy beaches, forests, and marshes on the bay side. Dunes and various types of vegetation are affected by salt water, whether in waves or overwash sediment. Despite the volatility of this coastal environment, plants and animals, including rare and endangered species, make their home on barrier islands.