2019 Beaches Conference Concurrent 1 Long Descriptions – Shifting Shorelines
Shifting Shorelines: Building and measuring coastal habitat resilience to protect communities and nature
This group of dynamic speakers will describe efforts to show how shorelines are managed and how shoreline health is measured to focus on resilience and nature-based design. Speakers from Maine and New Hampshire will share findings and lessons from their work to map shoreline suitability for nature-based stabilization, measure integrity of salt marshes responding to sea-level rise, engage communities in dune restoration, and enforce shoreline management regulations. Speakers include Kirsten Howard from the NH Department of Environmental Services, Sarah Dodgin from the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Alyson Eberhardt from NH Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension, and Alison Sirois from Maine Department of Environmental Protection. As the legacy of land use changes along our coastline compounds with sea-level rise to threaten the very coastal habitats that protect our communities, the work these speakers are carrying out will be all the more important to protecting our valuable shorelines in the future.
Did you know that 70% of New Hampshire’s Atlantic Coast and 12% of its estuarine shoreline is hardened? We now know that armored shorelines can have negative impacts on marsh migration, shoreline stability, and coastal habitats.
Recognizing the need to transition to softer approaches for shoreline protection, the NH Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program (NHCP) and its partners embarked on the New Hampshire Smart Shorelines project. This is a two-pronged geospatial modeling effort which asks two questions for any given site along the NH tidal shoreline: 1) Will a living shoreline project be suitable for this site given its environmental conditions? 2) Is a living shoreline project actually feasible to implement for this site given the human dimensions?
Borrowing from geospatial site suitability modeling approaches in other states, the NH model crunches data on hydrodynamic, geophysical, ecological, and sociopolitical characteristics of NH’s entire 326-mile tidal shoreline. It even attempts to incorporate characteristics unique to the northeast such as the effects of ice, nor’easters, and a large tidal range.
In this presentation, the audience will learn about a unique iterative modeling process, including mechanisms for engaging stakeholders and end-users using a variety of techniques such as stakeholder meetings, one-on-one interviews with experts, site walks, and solicitations for “problem sites” through living shoreline workshops.
Many National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) in the Northeast were established to protect plant and animal communities of the salt marsh ecosystem. Additional benefits of protecting salt marsh habitat for wildlife include the natural ability of marshes to mitigate the impacts of storms on coastal communities. Salt marshes in our region, however, have been degraded by man-made physical alterations, surrounding land-use changes, and non-native species invasions. Compounding the effects of these factors on salt marshes is climate-driven sea level rise. To assess the integrity of salt marshes in the face of these environmental and biological challenges, NWR biologists created scoring metrics based on the measurable living and non-living components of a marsh. Measurements from 15 NWRs including salinity, flooding duration, vegetation, bird and fish communities have been turned into an Integrity Score and were compared across refuges in the Northeast region. Here I will compare the scores of four NWRs (Parker River (MA), Rachel Carson (ME), Maine Coastal Islands (ME) and Moosehorn (ME) ) and discuss the implications of our findings.
The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, no longer a distant or removed phenomenon as storm frequency and intensity is regularly experienced by our coastal communities. As awareness of the role that sand dunes play in buffering the coastline from erosion and flooding, momentum has built for restoring and enhancing sand dunes where possible to increase the resilience of the NH Seacoast. This panel will highlight recent efforts to research, enhance and engage students and local communities in dune restoration and resiliency planning. We envision a panel session where science and outreach results are integrated from a diverse set of presenters who will answer questions from the discussant and the audience. Topics will include results of our team’s dune surveys (e.g., volume, change over time), new evidence on the causes and mechanisms of dune die-off using novel eDNA techniques, and presentation of innovative techniques resource managers and practitioners can use to empower local community members in restoring dunes.
Alison Sirois will explain her role at Maine DEP as it relates to habitat restoration and living shoreline projects. She will participate in the session primarily as a resource if participants have questions specific to Maine permitting and projects.