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Strong Coasts: Reducing Climate Risks with Equitable, Nature-based Solutions

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NatCap is part of the five-year NSF CoPE (Coastlines & People) “Strong Coasts” project, focused on Engaging Communities on Reef-Lined Coasts, led by the University of South Florida. Other partners: Boston University, University of Miami, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Virgin Islands, East Carolina University and Black in Marine Science. Local partners in Belize include: Fragments of Hope and WWF. 

Coastal zone planning meeting

The Challenge:

Coastal zones provide key services to local communities but also carry significant risks from the land and ocean including threats from waves, storm surges, floods, and sea-level rise, all of which are increasing with climate change. Often, the go-to solutions to address coastal risk include seawalls and other engineered solutions. “Gray” infrastructure like this can be expensive to implement and maintain, and can harm coastal habitats and diminish the flows of benefits from those habitats to people (e.g., decreasing fish harvest through degradation of nursery habitat). 

The Solution:

Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves can help mitigate coastal hazards, while also supporting local communities, livelihoods, and economies. This research aims to quantify the social and ecological factors required to develop effective policy changes, and advance public and private investment in disaster risk prevention and reduction.

In particular, this project explores risks and benefits to communities in tropical coral reef-dependent communities where replenishing coral reef and mangrove ecosystems has been piloted, and could be scaled up to regional and national management levels as nature-based solutions. Over five years, this project is co-creating new knowledge with coastal communities in Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Belize on how ecosystem-based processes can help address climate risk and support equitable and effective nature-based solutions. The team's complementary expertise in engineering, ecology, and social sciences, linking seven academic institutions, multiple local partners, and cross-regional organizations, expands the scope of potential research outcomes across the U.S. and ultimately to global tropical coastlines beyond the three focus regions.

NatCap is co-leading two aspects of this project:

  • Developing and applying ecosystem service models to inform equitable nature-based solutions by valuing the co-benefits of these solutions in terms of market, non-market, and cultural/intrinsic values. The team will assess how these different types of valuation may alter recommendations for the design and implementation of nature-based solutions, and will use outputs of these models to assess the likely outcomes of alternative adaptation scenarios.
  • Co-developing decision-making tools to support the implementation of nature-based solutions and other risk reduction measures with communities. This involves determining equitable and just strategies for promoting and analyzing nature-based solutions that enhance human well-being, economic recovery, and biodiversity benefits; developing an approach to co-creating nature-based solutions to minimize tradeoffs to local communities, disaster management funders, and the insurance sector; and integrating new science with local communities to identify investments needed for nature-based solutions and ways to build capacity and livelihoods.

This project is funded by NSF Award #2209284. 

Project Category: Resilient coastal communities, sustainable development 
Project Status:  Current