The effects of climate change are a significant issue for everyone, but they are particularly urgent for the almost 14 million residents of Florida’s coastal counties. Rising sea levels and escalating storm surges put people and property at risk by threatening coastal towns with floods and erosion.
Marshes, beaches, mangrove stands, coral reefs, and oyster reefs are examples of natural infrastructure that can assist in safeguarding Florida’s coastline from such dangers.
To lessen the effects of coastal risks brought on by climate change, TNC is preserving and repairing natural infrastructure in Florida and elsewhere. These natural solutions and green and green-gray or hybrid infrastructure can safeguard people and property while offering wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and economic advantages. TNC is showing how local, state, and significant stakeholders can provide a win-win solution for coastal resilience on a larger scale by investing in nature-based solutions throughout Florida.
Natural Infrastructure’s Power
Climate mitigation and adaptation are two equally significant aspects of climate action. Lowering carbon emissions and switching to renewable energy sources are the main goals of climate mitigation efforts. These climate change mitigation measures will keep extremely important in reducing the rate of climate change. However, prevention alone is insufficient. Climate adaptation initiatives are essential to lessen the risks caused by sea level rise, storm surge, flooding, and coastal erosion brought on by climate change.
Typically, seawalls and breakwaters are used in coastal regions’ plans to address rising sea levels and escalating storm surges. But the cost and carbon footprint of this grey infrastructure are high. Contrarily, natural solutions offer numerous advantages, such as green, honest, and hybrid infrastructure. Hybrid infrastructure is frequently employed to deliver higher long-term resilience and more affordable results than we might get with conventional methods alone.
We now have a lot of proof that natural ecosystems can shield the coastline and, in certain situations, even lessen storm surges than grey architecture can. Scientists at TNC have shown that in some areas, a healthy coral reef may absorb 97% of the energy of a wave before it reaches the shore. Additionally, mangrove trees can lower wave height by 66% to approximately 100 meters (328 ft). According to recent research, TNC partially sponsored mangroves in Florida shielded about 625,000 people from Hurricane Irma in 2017, and averted $1.5 billion in direct flood damages.
Natural ecosystems and nature-based solutions provide a variety of other advantages in addition to protecting coastlines, such as better water quality, recreational space, and healthier fisheries. In addition to providing essential habitat for Florida’s native flora and wildlife, trees and other green infrastructure also trap and store carbon.
the direction of coastal resilience
In less urban locations, natural infrastructure is essential for protecting coastal habitats. The science of nature-based solutions is being advanced through initiatives like our effort to restore coral reefs along Florida’s Atlantic coast and our work to restore oyster beds in the Gulf of Mexico. These initiatives also maintain vital wildlife habitats. Additionally, we are creating cutting-edge modeling tools, like the coastal defense app available on our coastal resilience website, to assist with decision-making for climate adaptation. To ensure that nature may keep creating resilient coasts, we also keep protecting more natural areas.
Along with our work locally, TNC is assuming a leading position in Florida to encourage nature-based solutions. We actively participate in the Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties’ Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a four-county program designed to coordinate climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. We were in charge of Compact’s Shoreline Resilience Working Group throughout our engagement, which aimed to promote coastal resilience in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys by identifying and promoting healthy natural systems, engineered living shorelines, and hybrid approaches.
Together with Deltares USA, TNC in Florida is developing a set of regional resources to aid in the creation of plans for community resilience in Florida’s most climate-vulnerable regions. With the help of these plans, vulnerable communities will be safeguarded against the dangers of storm surges and sea level rise. Through this work, we’ll also locate a pipeline of environmentally friendly solutions that will yield the best financial results.
Florida’s coastline is already changing due to climate change. We must employ all the instruments at our disposal to build a more resilient coastal ecosystem for Floridians to handle current risks and prepare for the future; naturally based solutions should be at the top of that list.