This paper is the result of the analysis of several studies made by the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) (during 1989–1991) and by the Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE) (during 2000–2001 and 2003) since hurricane Gilbert hit the Yucatan Peninsula (1988). The analysis was finished at the end of 2004 with the development of a hydrodynamic and morphodynamic model of the littoral system. These studies were looking for a solution to the erosion suffered by the Cancun littoral barrier (“island”) and to obtain a good understanding of the littoral dynamic processes in the barrier of Cancun-Nizuc. Although the erosion of this barrier only became obvious after Gilbert occurred, there is evidence to conclude that the hurricane effects are not the origin of the erosion. The hurricane only worsened a process that existed for a long time, probably due to the inadequate and excessive occupation of the beach front that reduced the capacity of recovery (“resilience”) of the beach profile. Different measures were taken to protect the zone, but they soon failed; the erosion continued and hurricanes Ivan and Wilma worsened the conditions of the whole barrier. Finally, the recovery of the barrier was tackled by means of sand nourishment. This nourishment has been completed in June 2006 in parallel with the drafting of this paper.

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