Using Nature Itself to Improve Coastal Resilience. Natural structures like oyster reefs, mangrove stands and marshes help protect Florida's coastline.
At 40 projects sites throughout the world, including Florida, the Conservancy is demonstrating that nature can reduce the impact of coastal hazards. Florida’s coral reefs, oyster reefs, beaches and mangroves can help protect people and property without negatively affecting the wildlife habitat, recreational value or economic benefits of natural areas. Green spaces in our urban areas can provide buffers to flooding and, at the same time, create sustainable neighborhoods that promote healthy living.
With the population of Florida’s coastal counties growing to more than 13.8 million, development, urbanization and destruction of natural systems have left communities more vulnerable to the impacts of natural hazards like rising sea level and higher temperatures. Climate change is likely to increase these hazards. Natural infrastructure or systems can reduce their impact. They can buffer shores, store stormwater and reduce incoming wave and storm energy. In doing so, natural infrastructure moderates coastal erosion and flooding.
The Conservancy works to identify, protect and restore areas and systems that help reduce the impacts of coastal hazards. In many cases, we can combine natural solutions with man-made built or “grey” infrastructure to provide greater long-term resilience and more cost-effective outcomes than built infrastructure alone. In addition to protection, natural systems or hybrid systems supply other benefits, such as improved water quality, recreational space and healthier fisheries.
Egret and mangroves in the everglades. ©Fran Carlisle
South Florida is a Special Concern
South Florida’s heavily populated, coastal urban areas face the greatest risks, but nature can transform cities into more resilient, livable and flourishing places by protecting them against those threats.
We’ve embarked on an urban conservation program in South Florida, one of the largest and most vulnerable metropolitan regions in the United States. Infrastructure, homes, businesses and natural areas from Key West to Palm Beach are already at or near sea level, making them vulnerable to coastal hazards. For many South Florida residents, repetitive flooding has become a consequence of today’s highest tides. In Miami, sunny day flooding has been featured widely in the media. It’s costly to mitigate this flooding with pumps or raising sidewalks and roadways. But, by bringing the power of nature to cities, we can fundamentally shift practices and policies to create more resilient communities, while strengthening the connection between people and the natural world.
Wagner Creek ©Greg Guannel
Help us in our effort to win funding to restore this important section of Wagner Creek by voicing your support for the project by March 12, 2016 in the Public Space Challenge.
Partnerships for Nature Based Solutions
In Miami-Dade County,two demonstration projects, our Wagner Creek green spaces project in Miami's Health District, and our South Dade Wetlands protection modeling project, highlight the effectiveness of natural infrastructure. We continue to work collaboratively with partners throughout the state on resilience and restoration, and expect the project at Wagner Creek to bring organizations and agencies together to ensure its success, including the University of Miami, Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, the Kristi House, community and environmental education groups, and other stakeholders.
The Conservancy is an active participant in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a four-county initiative established to coordinate climate mitigation and adaptation activities across Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties. As part of this engagement, we are leading the Compact’s Shoreline Resilience Working Group, which focuses on identifying and promoting healthy natural systems, engineered living shorelines and hybrid “grey-green” approaches to increase coastal resilience in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys.
Mangrove at West Content Key. ©Jeff Ripple
Beyond South Florida
Our coral reef restoration work along Florida’s Atlantic coast and our oyster restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico are informing the science of how nature may help reduce wave energy and shoreline erosion, while supporting habitats for wildlife and communities for people.
We are also developing innovative modeling tools to help inform decision-making, such as our coastal defense app, hosted on our website CoastalResilience.org.
When hearing the word “Florida”, most people envision a gorgeous beach. Indeed, our thousands of miles of coasts are world-renowned.
Over the years, the Conservancy has purchased some of the best. Two favorites are Topsail Hill State Preserve in the Panhandle and our own Blowing Rocks Preserve along the southeast Atlantic. To help us with this work, will you make a safe and secure online gift today?
More than beautiful playgrounds, however, Florida’s coastal habitats include some of the world’s most productive reefs, bays and estuaries. They support plant and animal diversity and also contribute nearly $562 billion each year to our economy. Yep, that’s “billion.”
The Conservancy strives to balance ocean conservation with the needs of people – now and in the future. But coastal threats abound, including:
• Pollution and disease
• Loss and degradation of coastal habitat
• Rising, warming and more-acid seas
• Frequent and powerful storms
• Overfishing and boat grounding/anchor/diver impacts.
We are busily researching ways to make coastal habitats more resilient to these threats, from oil gushers to hurricanes.
Restoring priority habitats
All across Florida, Conservancy scientists work with partners on your behalf to protect significant ocean resources. We give top priority to the restoration of coral reefs and oyster reefs. Together these provide nurseries for a multitude of plant and animal species (many of which are human food sources.) The habitats protect the coast from storm surges and even purify the water.
Anticipating Sea Level Rise
Rising seas are of special concern, especially along the low-lying Florida Keys and shallow Gulf of Mexico coasts. Even the lowest of sea level rise projections shows dramatic changes to native habitats and billions in property loss. The Conservancy uses a computerized mapping system to guide a diverse group of planners, economists and ecologists – all charged with helping Florida’s coasts adapt to change.
Mapping ocean resources
Although vast, our oceans are expected to meet crushing demands: shipping, food production, transportation, recreation, energy development, commercial fishing and more. Wild creatures – including endangered whales and sea turtles – must sometimes compete for space.
Our scientists have begun to map these conflicting needs and identify the most critical conservation areas. Known as marine spatial planning, it’s imperative if Florida’s coastal and marine habitats are to remain bountiful. Unlike land, most marine areas can’t be purchased and protected by private interests.
Everyone who needs or loves the ocean has a role to play. We all depend upon marine resources, and the Conservancy is grateful for your support! Won’t you join us?