Long Island’s Dynamic South Shore


A Primer on the Forces and Trends Shaping Our Coast

Long Island’s Atlantic coastline is a special place for many reasons. The south shore is home to a wide variety of habitats which support a vast array of plants and animals, some threatened or endangered. It is also the place where millions of people live, work, and play. The 120-mile coast stretching between Coney Island and Montauk is remarkably diverse in terms of its physical characteristics, use, and development. This shore contains everything from heavily developed urbanized barrier islands to New York State’s only federally-designated wilderness area. Area beaches are a prime recreational resource, attracting millions of visitors every year and serving as the foundation of a multibillion-dollar regional tourism industry.

Long Island’s coast is also extremely dynamic, constantly changing in response to natural processes associated with wind, waves, and tides as well as human activities. The dynamic nature of the shoreline coupled with people’s desire to use and enjoy the shoreline presents unique challenges in managing this resource. Making decisions that balance conservation of the natural environment with significant demand for use of the shore requires a sound understanding of the processes shaping and impacting the coast.

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