Coastal Resilience

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Coastal resilience refers to a community’s ability to recover after hazardous events such as hurricanes, coastal storms, and flooding – rather than simply reacting to impacts. Coastal areas have additional hazard risk from increased population pressures, making resilience particularly important in these locations. Communities that are more informed and prepared will have greater opportunities to rebound quickly from weather and climate-related events, including adapting to sea level rise. The ability to rebound more quickly can reduce negative human health, environmental, and economic impacts.


Coastal Wetlands at Risk

Climate Central is an independent organization of scientists and journalists who research and report the facts about climate change and its impact. For World Oceans Day Climate Change published a new study exploring how wetlands—and the benefits they provide to coastal communities, economies, and ecosystems—can, or cannot, adapt to rising sea levels.

Building a Resilient Georgia Funding Opportunities

This webinar was a joint effort by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and Georgia Coastal Hazards Community of Practice, which is a multidisciplinary group that assess coastal hazards and lift up best practices for communities in coastal Georgia. The purpose of this webinar is to inform groups on how to access and be competitive to receive funding opportunities to make their communities more equitable and resilient.

The recording of the webinar is available on YouTube with closed captioning.


Vulnerability and Resilience of U.S. Coastal Wetlands to Sea Level RiseThis research builds upon prior analyses of wetlands’ responses to sea level rise by filling a gap. Earlier studies were either large scale analyses that use data that is too coarse or models that are too simplistic to inform local decision making, or localized models that cover only a small area. Our analysis works at an intermediate scale to provide the most accurate assessment of wetland exposure for the contiguous U.S. to date. Assessing two coastal development scenarios, three sea level rise scenarios, and eight different surface elevation change rates, Climate Central modeled the extent of coastal wetlands in the U.S. from 2000 to 2100. We found a broad range of possible outcomes for U.S. coastal wetlands. In an optimistic scenario—one in which all refugia are conserved, emissions are sharply reduced (formally, RCP 2.6), and there is a high maximum vertical growth rate (8 mm/yr)—coastal wetlands may increase by 25% by 2100. This translates to an additional $222 billion in ecosystem services, assuming that the total value of ecosystem services scales linearly with area. However, in a more pessimistic scenario—one in which all refugia are developed, there is a moderate maximum vertical growth rate (3 mm/yr), emissions grow unchecked (RCP 8.5), and there is higher than expected sea level rise due to ice sheet instability—97% of coastal wetlands may be lost, along with $732 billion in ecosystem services.2022
Resilience of U.S. coastal wetlands to accelerating sea level riseUsing a simple model together with high-resolution elevation data, we provide, across the contiguous United States, analysis of the local effects of SLR, maximum SEC rates, and coastal development on the long-term resilience of coastal wetlands. We find that protecting current refugia is a critical factor for retaining wetlands under accelerating SLR. If refugia are conserved under an optimistic scenario (a high universal maximum SEC rate of 8 mm/yr and low greenhouse gas emissions), wetlands may increase by 25.0% (29.4%–21.5%; 50th, 5th–95th percentiles of SLR) by the end of the century. However, if refugia are developed under a more pessimistic scenario (a moderate universal maximum SEC rate of 3 mm/yr, high greenhouse gas emissions, and projections incorporating high ice-sheet contributions to SLR), wetlands may decrease by −97.0% (−82.3%–99.9%). These median changes in wetland area could result in an annual gain of ∼$222 billion compared to an annual loss of ∼$732 billion in ecosystem services in the US alone. Focusing on key management options for sustaining wetlands, we highlight areas at risk of losing wetlands and identify the benefits possible from conserving refugia or managing SEC rates.2022
Inequitable patterns of US flood risk in the AnthropoceneCurrent flood risk mapping, relying on historical observations, fails to account for increasing threat under climate change. Incorporating recent developments in inundation modelling, here we show a 26.4% increase in US flood risk by 2050 due to climate change alone. Our national depiction of comprehensive and high-resolution flood risk estimates in the US indicates current average annual losses of $32.1 billion in 2020’s climate, which are borne disproportionately by poorer communities with a proportionally larger White population. The future increase in risk will disproportionately impact Black communities, while remaining concentrated on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Furthermore, projected population change could cause flood risk increases that outweigh the impact of climate change fourfold. These results make clear the need for adaptation to flood and emergent climate risks in the US, with mitigation required to prevent the acceleration of these risks.2022
A cross-scale study for compound flooding processes during Hurricane FlorenceCompound flooding is caused by multiple mechanisms contributing to elevated water level simultaneously, which poses higher risks than conventional floods. This study uses a holistic approach to simulate the processes on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales that contributed to the compound flooding during Hurricane Florence in 2018. Sensitivity tests are used to isolate the contribution from each mechanism and identify the region experiencing compound effects, thus supporting management.2021
NC Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience PlanThis plan provides the following important output: (1) our best understanding of the projected change in the climate; (2) climate justice considerations; (3) state infrastructure, assets, programs and services within 11 critical sectors that are vulnerable and at risk to climate and non-climate stressors; (4) preliminary actions currently underway or which could be taken to reduce the risk for at least three example vulnerability areas; and (5) recommendations for nature-based solutions to enhance ecosystem resiliency and sequester carbon in the state’s natural and working lands.2020
Impacts of climate change for coastal fishers and implications for fisheriesIn this study, we perform a meta-analysis of observations and adaptations to climate change by subsistence-oriented coastal fishers extracted from a global review of peer-reviewed and grey literature. Fishers' observations compiled from across the globe indicate increased temperatures and changes in weather patterns, as well as coastal erosion, sea level rise and shifts in species range and behaviors. Coastal areas offer a wide array of resources for diversifying livelihoods, but climate change is reducing these options. 2017
When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal CommunitiesThis national analysis identifies when US coastal communities will face a level of disruptive flooding that affects people's homes, daily routines, and livelihoods. It identifies hundreds of communities that will face chronic inundation and possible retreat over the coming decades as sea levels rise. The findings highlight what’s at stake in our fight to address sea level rise and global warming. They also provide affected communities a measure of how much time they have to prepare.2017
Aligning Natural Resource Conservation, Flood Hazard Mitigation, and Social Vulnerability Remediation in FloridaAddressing the complex interaction between hazards, exposure and social vulnerability, this study identifies and prioritizes land in Florida, where multiple management benefits can be achieved: flood exposure reduction, habitats restoration, and social vulnerability remediation. In a targeted case-study, our model identified 144 repetitive loss properties in Miami-Dade County located in areas where high social vulnerability, high flood exposure, and natural habitats coexist. Collectively, these 144 properties filed at least 320 claims against National Flood Insurance Program between 1978 and 2011. We argue that government funded buyouts, followed by structure demolition and/or relocation, and the restoration of floodplain habitats, can support social, environmental, and economic objectives, as long as such projects are executed in a thoughtful and fair manner.2017
Implementing nature-based flood protection: Principles and implementation guidanceThe objective of this document is to present five principles and implementation guidance for planning, such as evaluation, design, and implementation of nature-based solutions for flood risk management as an alternative to or complementary to conventional engineering measures. The potential users of these principles and implementation steps are professionals in risk management and climate adaptation, NGOs, donors, and international organizations.
This document has two parts: 1) principles, describing key considerations to consider when planning nature-based solutions, and 2) Implementation guidance, describing the timeline and activities needed to implement nature-based solutions.
The Resilience of Marine Ecosystems to Climatic DisturbancesWe surveyed 97 experts in 6 major coastal biogenic ecosystem types to identify “bright spots” of resilience in the face of climate change. We also evaluated literature that was recommended by the experts that addresses the responses of habitat-forming species to climatic disturbance. Resilience was commonly reported in the expert surveys (80% of experts). Resilience was observed in all ecosystem types and at multiple locations worldwide. The experts and literature cited remaining biogenic habitat, recruitment/connectivity, physical setting, and management of local-scale stressors as most important for resilience. These findings suggest that coastal ecosystems may still hold great potential to persist in the face of climate change and that local- to regional-scale management can help buffer global climatic impacts.2017
Adapting to Climate Change: SoutheastThe Southeast is projected to experience higher average temperatures, increased precipitation, more frequent and intense storms, and droughts. These projected changes pose challenges to communities as they protect water sources, sensitive wetlands, and public health. Climate impacts vary from a wet northern area to a dry southwestern area. Many communities are building resilience to the risks they face under current climatic conditions. This fact sheet provides examples of communities that are going beyond resilience to anticipate and prepare for future impacts. 2016
Maryland Coastal Resiliency AssessmentThe Nature Conservancy partnered with the Chesapeake and Coastal Services to conduct a Statewide Coastal Resiliency Assessment. In order to spatially assess where natural habitats have the greatest potential to reduce risk for people, it is important to address three questions: where are the hazards, where are the people, and where are the habitats? The project team used spatially explicit computer modeling informed by scientific literature and local expert opinion to answer these questions and identify where natural habitats provide the greatest potential risk reduction for Maryland’s coastal communities. The products of the Assessment include calculation of a Shoreline Hazard Index, which estimates the relative exposure to coastal hazards for the entire Maryland shoreline; delineation of Coastal Community Flood Risk Areas; selection of Priority Shoreline Areas for conservation and/or restoration; and the calculation of a Marsh Protection Potential Index. The results of this Assessment provide tools to target coastal adaptation efforts.2016
Coastal Adaptation Strategies HandbookThis Handbook summarizes the current state of climate adaptation and key approaches currently in practice or considered for National Park Service (NPS) climate change adaptation in coastal areas in order to guide adaptation planning in coastal parks. The chapters focus on policy, planning, cultural resources, natural resources, facility management, and communication/education. The handbook highlights processes, tools and examples that are applicable to many types of NPS plans and decisions. 2016
Coastal sand dunes and dune vegetation: Restoration, erosion, and storm protectionThis paper will review the current state of knowledge about dune restoration and vegetation’s role in coastal resilience, discuss the results of our pilot studies, and
suggest future trajectories of research on this topic. Results from a small-scale mobile-bed wave flume experiment with live plants clearly showed that the presence of the plants significantly reduced the volume of dune erosion and the dune scarp retreat rate by over 30%. Shear testing indicated that dune plant roots increase the mechanical strength of non-cohesive sediment. The presence of mature plant roots doubled the amount of time before structural failure occurred and increased
the cumulative shear required to break down sediment by 180%.


U.S. Climate Resilience ToolkitDesigned by NOAA and partners, the Climate Resilience Toolkit provides resources and a framework for understanding and addressing the climate issues that impact people and their communities.
Coastal Resilience Evaluation and Siting ToolThis tool starts the process of identifying large public and private coastal and nearshore land areas ideal for restoration and analyzes their potential to provide maximum protection to human communities, while also restoring or improving habitat for fish and wildlife. The Coastal Resilience Evaluation and Siting Tool, or CREST, integrates data available at the national level, ensuring a consistent and contiguous data set for U.S. coastlines, while also informing resilience planning and project development in local communities. In territories where national data were not available, local data sets were used.
Climate Adaptation Toolkit for Marine and Coastal Protected AreasThe Climate Adaptation Toolkit for Marine and Coastal Protected Areas contains tools that help protected area managers evaluate the vulnerability of their sites to climate change, identify appropriate adaptation strategies, and learn about those strategies through case studies, reports and other resources. It is focused on the natural resources and habitats within marine and coastal protected areas in North America and the local communities who value those resources. The Toolkit contains: 1) a step-by-step guide to undertaking a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment for marine and coastal areas; 2) Structured and searchable adaptation strategy ideas with supporting case studies, reports and tools; 3) foundational resources; and 4) selected experts who can be contacted for technical guidance.
Aquatic Barrier PrioritizationThe Aquatic Barrier Prioritization app can be used to assess and prioritize in-stream barriers to fish passage, including dams and poorly functioning road-stream crossings, for removal or upgrade.
Coastline Change: Future Scenarios The Coastline Change: Future Scenarios app allows users to explore how climate change combined with management actions over a 50-year time frame may affect the rates of shoreline change along a simulated Virginia barrier island system.
Coastline Change: Historical DataBeaches and barrier islands are dynamic systems that move constantly in response to processes that erode, transport, and deposit sand. The Historical Data module of the Coastline Change app in the Coastal Resilience tool uses a robust dataset that covers 165 years of observed shoreline changes along the Virginia barrier islands (including Assateague Island), allowing users to explore how much and in which direction these shorelines have changed over this time period.
Community and Regional Planning appsThe Community Planning app is the location where resilient communities host their locally specific data to inform their decisions and track their successes. Users can view local information alongside with other Coastal Resilience data layers which helps support community-level engagement processes.
Community Rating System ExplorerThe Community Rating System Explorer helps planners identify areas that are eligible for Open Space Preservation (OSP) credits in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS), a voluntary program that encourages improved floodplain management through discounted flood insurance premiums, and provides exportable information to support the application process.
Community Rating System ExplorerThe Community Rating System Explorer helps planners identify areas that are eligible for Open Space Preservation (OSP) credits in FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS), a voluntary program that encourages improved floodplain management through discounted flood insurance premiums, and provides exportable information to support the application process.
Economics of Coastal AdaptationThe Economics of Coastal Adaptation app allows users to explore current and future risks from coastal hazards and to compare the cost-effectiveness of nature-based (green), artificial (gray), and policy solutions to reduce risks and avert damages.
Ecosystem Effects of Sea Level ChangeThe Ecosystem Effects of Sea Level Change app enables users to visualize the effects of various sea level change scenarios on target ecosystems.
Flood and Sea Level RiseFlooding is increasing along the coast and certain rivers. Use this app to view areas affected today and in the future due to increased sea level rise, surge from storms and hurricanes, and inland flooding.
Future HabitatThe Future Habitat app categorizes various tidal marsh advancement scenarios from spatial model outputs to inform users of the combined impacts of sea level change, physical barriers to wetland movement, and rates of land accretion or sediment accumulation.
Living Shoreline ExplorerThis tool identifies shorelines with low enough wave energy to support the use of living shoreline approaches for erosion control to stabilize your coastline, and it provides design guidance for these types of projects based on site-specific wave energy characteristics.
Marsh ExplorerThe Marsh Explorer analyzes and ranks the restoration potential of New Jersey’s Atlantic coast back-bay marshes based on the amount and size of linear ditching, marsh edge erosion, unvegetated marsh, and unused dredged lagoons.
Natural Defense ProjectsThe Natural Defense App evaluates natural coastal habitats like reefs, mangroves, and marshes that often play an important role in coastal protection, and allows users to explore a comprehensive global summary of natural defense projects across multiple habitat types.
Restoration ExplorerThe Restoration Explorer recommends potential living shoreline techniques to reduce nuisance flooding and erosion, increase recreational opportunities, improve water quality, and ultimately stabilize shorelines.
Risk ExplorerThe Risk Explorer is organized by state and permits users to easily visualize coastal hazards exposure, social vulnerability and overall risk.


Using Novel Approaches to Create Resilient Dune Systems Following Hurricane MariaBiomimicry is a technique that uses matrices created with pieces of wood to generate turbulence and reduce wind velocity, resulting in the uniform accumulation of sand that is resistant to storm surge and strong wave action. Dr. Robert J. Mayer, Director of Vida Marina, is leading a project using this innovative restoration technique to create resilient dune systems that provide protection from coastal storms in Puerto Rico.2018-2019


Collaboratory for Coastal Adaptation over Space and Time (C-CoAST) C-CoAST is a Research Coordination Network (RCN) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address grand challenges in coastal resilience. Developed coastal environments are shaped by interactions between human activities and natural processes. Mitigation and recovery strategies that promote adaptation at the time scale of storm events can be counterproductive over longer timescales. A series of collaborative activities will integrate coastal researcher, stakeholder, and practitioner expertise, building capacity for a comprehensive understanding of the human-natural coastal system. This will enable the potential for steering away from future outcomes that communities may want to avoid, and toward outcomes they deem more desirable.
Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence, UNC-Chapel HillThe mission of the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) is to conduct research and education to enhance the resilience of the nation’s people, infrastructure, economies and the natural environment to the impacts of coastal hazards such as floods and hurricanes, including the effects of future climate trends.
TNC's Coastal Resilience ProgramCoastal Resilience is a program led by The Nature Conservancy to examine nature’s role in reducing coastal flood risk. The program consists of an approach, a web mapping tool, and a network of practitioners around the world supporting hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning.