What can a restoration project do for you in the face of sea level rise? That is exactly what we are trying to figure out!
The Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative, which is sponsored by Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, has joined in partnership with the Louisiana State University’s Center for Coastal Resiliency, University of Central Florida, University of South Carolina and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to use recently completed research to ask this question.
The Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the northern Gulf of Mexico (EESLR-NGOM) project is a six-year project that undertook extensive research and modeling to understand how dynamic coastal processes will interact with sea level rise.
The EESLR-NGOM team worked in National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs) across the northern Gulf to understand the biological response of these habitats when their environment is altered by rising seas. Then, they combined all of this knowledge, using powerful models to understand what coastal habitats and coastlines will look like in the future.
Our new project, also funded by NOAA’s EESLR program, will bring together all of this knowledge to better understand the impact of natural and nature-based features on mitigating sea-level rise impacts.
How will it work?
Step 1: Ask people who know.
This project will be a close collaboration across research and management. We will ask the experts in restoration, conservation and management from the northern Gulf to provide project ideas. The science team will plug these project ideas into the models, conducting additional research or observations if necessary.
Step 2: What’s the change?
The science team will analyze the impact of these projects under multiple sea-level rise scenarios and many time-steps. For example, a living shoreline might have a large impact under small amounts of sea-level rise in short time-steps, but greater amounts of sea-level rise could change the relationship of the project to the surrounding habitat.
Step 3: Let’s talk about money.
We also want to understand the economic and ecologic benefits of the habitats that might be conserved or restored. The different changes in impact will be analyzed by economists on the science team to understand the value of these changes. For example, we will look to see if the number of days of nuisance flooding is reduced and how much money that saves a community.
Step 4: Tell everyone!
We will bring all this information back to the restoration specialists, natural resource managers and conservationists. These results will provide an additional perspective when trying to compare or select between restoration projects.
This project is just getting started and we are very excited about it. Stay tuned to www.ngomssc.org for more information!