New Publication: Coastal Resilience through Natural Infrastructure

Monday, August 27, 2018
Photo Credit: NPS

   In recent years, coastal systems along the United States Atlantic and Gulf coasts have experienced a number of extreme storm events whose impacts have been amplified by rising sea levels. Gradual and acute threats from SLR require innovative, holistic and collaborative approaches to reduce risk including coastal adaptation strategies that consider short- and long-term climate scenarios, uncertainty, and cost-benefit analyses. Natural infrastructure and hybrid approaches can serve as alternative management approaches to traditional grey infrastructure for risk reduction and may provide added benefits to socio-ecological systems. While natural infrastructure is becoming more widespread in practice, it often represents a relatively small fraction of a portfolio of coastal risk-reducing strategies when compared to more traditional grey infrastructure.

Key takeaways:

This study synthesizes information related to four coastal habitats – tidal marshes, beaches and barrier islands, mangroves, and biogenic reefs – and compares the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of implementing them as natural infrastructure in comparison to grey and hybrid approaches. Results summarize:

  • Habitat responses and quantitative tolerance thresholds related to varying amounts and rates of SLR along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts;
  • Management approaches and their associated ecosystem services using the four habitats as natural infrastructure to increase socio-ecological resilience to SLR and storms;
  • Value estimates of the ecosystem services provided by grey, natural and hybrid infrastructure management actions.
  • Recommendations to increase information and reduce uncertainty around the use of natural infrastructure in coastal planning and decision making.

    This publication is part of the project Critical thresholds and ecosystem services for coastal ecological and human climate adaptation led by NE CASC Fellow Emily Powell, and Science Coordinator Michelle Staudinger and is a collaborative effort with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). Additional study results related to using living shoreline techniques and incorporating ecological thresholds into coastal protection and restoration actions can be found on the Massachusetts Climate Action Tool.

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This paper was produced with extensive contributions by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.