Barrier islands provide a host of critical ecosystem services to heavily populated coastal regions of the world, yet they are quite vulnerable to ongoing sea level rise and a potential increase in the frequency and intensity of oceanic storms. These islands are being degraded at an alarming rate, in part because of anthropogenic attempts at stabilization. In this article, we outline a possible sustainability strategy that incorporates the natural degree of substrate instability on these sedimentary landscapes. We recommend placing the focus for managing barrier islands on maintaining ecosystem function and process development rather than emphasizing barrier islands as structural impediments to wave and storm energy.

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