The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
How Nature Can Help Provide a Much-Needed Solution for Dramatic Sea Level Rise
With a water level that much higher than it is today, major coastal cities such as Boston, New York and Miami are sure to be below sea level. So the key question now is, how do we adapt to climate change effects we can no longer avoid?
A single solution to rising oceans won’t fix the problem, but there is a “soft option” that can help protect our coasts when complemented with other measures.
Living Shorelines Have Role to Play
Sea level rise means entire regions, not just beachfront towns, will have to adapt.
With coastal areas accounting for 42 percent of America’s economic output, we must make effective climate change and sea level-rise adaptation strategies a priority today.
Soft options, sometimes called living shorelines or natural infrastructure, include features such as sand dunes, barrier islands and maritime forests. They help lessen storm surge and flooding while also providing habitat, water filtration and beautiful places we can all enjoy.
These and other natural infrastructure measures can be used alone or to complement and enhance hard infrastructure such as levees and floodwalls to create multiple lines of defense.
But natural infrastructure measures also have a distinct advantage over hardened approaches: They can grow.
Beaches, dunes, wetlands, mangroves and oyster reefs can keep pace with sea level rise and provide critical buffers—a first line of defense against waves and floods.
Coastal Communities Taking Action
Communities on every coast are now beginning to think about changes in zoning and building standards to protect themselves from flooding, while also investigating how to restore natural defenses. Such redundant measures can improve their resiliency—and also give them environmental and economic benefits that improve quality of life.
Seabrook, New Hampshire, for example, has a plan to build and strengthen its dunes and allow them to continue to grow, to protect coastal properties.
Louisiana is also restoring its wetlands, cypress swamps and barrier islands as part of its strategy to cope with sea level rise and storm disasters. And across Hampton Roads, Virginia, living shorelines are sprouting up as alternatives to bulkheads to combat erosion and improve Chesapeake Bay water quality.
Such efforts are taking off in other countries, too. Communities in across Southeast Asia, for example, are now replanting mangroves to reduce impacts from tsunamis and storm surges.
Live with Water, Fight It or Retreat?
Scientists are expecting sea levels to rise faster and higher than previously predicted. So the truth is, we’ll have to soon make choices about where, when and how we adapt to live with water, defend our coasts and retreat.
Fortunately, restoring coastal ecosystems can fit nicely with these strategies to provide human communities with benefits not only on stormy days, but year-round.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
by Jordan Davidson
Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.
By Alisa Opar
For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.
By Jessica Corbett
Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images
By Bridget Shirvell
On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.
That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.