Getting Back to Nature
Experts in the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science assist communities in building resilience against flooding and erosion, particularly in areas where coastal infrastructure is most vulnerable. Projects can incorporate nature-based solutions, such as marshes to defend against sea level rise, or human-made oyster reefs to provide a barrier against erosion. Hybrid strategies also play an important role, where built infrastructure, such as seawalls or dikes, are combined with nature-based ones. Incorporating nature-based and hybrid strategies into the design of roads and structures in at-risk coastal communities can increase climate change adaptability and provide flood protection.
An important step in building coastal resilience is learning what creates better outcomes for different environments. Consequently, we monitor and evaluate nature-based solutions to ensure their viability as a line of coastal defense now and in the future. We’re looking at several types of nature-based solutions, including coastal marsh, coral and oyster reef, and kelp projects. We also collaborate with regional, on-the-ground partners and researchers to obtain the best possible data about how effective these solutions are at protecting coastal regions while delivering other economic, social, or environmental benefits.
The Effects of Sea Level Rise program is an example of how we support partner resilience efforts. As part of this program, NOAA awards research funding for projects that explore what type of nature-based solutions work best to address a particular community’s coastal ecosystem, infrastructure, and surface transportation vulnerabilities to sea level rise. One team’s investigation shed light on flood risk inequities in Los Angeles County, prompting civic leaders to call for county-wide stormwater infrastructure assessments.
Residential streets in Charleston, South Carolina, were flooded after Hurricane Irma in September 2017 — just one example of how climate change and its associated problems impact coastal resilience. Credit: NOAA
Tools and Training
We also offer a suite of products, tools, and services through the Office for Coastal Management’s Digital Coast. Customers and partners can begin with an online training module on basic nature-based solutions for coastal hazards, which covers the fundamental concepts of identifying coastal hazards and ecosystem services; the module then stimulates thinking about how green infrastructure practices or natural solutions can best provide those services. We offer coastal decision-makers the opportunity to take in-person training on topics associated with building resilience, such as climate adaptation, water quality, or stormwater management. A webinar series provides creative strategies for financing coastal resilience projects, covering topics such as tax proceeds, stormwater credits, and revolving loan funds. The Digital Coast provides a variety of user-friendly geospatial tools to help communities visualize their coastal hazard risks.
The National Coastal Zone Management Program rounds out this brief introduction to our various coastal resilience efforts. This program provides our coastal partners funding to support policy development, land use planning and governance, and nature-based solutions and natural infrastructure projects toward ensuring more resilient coastal communities. Working closely with the coastal states and territories, this support helps communities develop and integrate their resilience priorities through their own laws, programs, and regulations.
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