Beach Grass Invasions and Coastal Flood Protection: Forecasting the Effects of Climate Change on Coastal VulnerabilityEPA Grant Number: R833836
Title: Beach Grass Invasions and Coastal Flood Protection: Forecasting the Effects of Climate Change on Coastal Vulnerability
Investigators: Seabloom, Eric , Hacker, Sally , Ruggiero, Peter
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2012 (Extended to June 30, 2013)
Project Amount: $599,980
RFA: Ecological Impacts from the Interactions of Climate Change, Land Use Change and Invasive Species: A Joint Research Solicitation - EPA, USDA (2007) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecosystems , Climate Change
Increased storm severity and sea-level rise resulting from climate change have greatly elevated the risk of coastal communities to catastrophic flooding and storm damage. These risks have been exacerbated by alterations to coastal ecosystems and the introduction of exotic species. In the Pacific Northwest, coastal dunes protect about half of the coastline, and our initial results suggest that climate change induced sea level rise could double the frequency with which waves overtop dunes. Intentional planting of exotic grasses may have initially increased coastal protection from flooding by building tall foredunes parallel to the shoreline. However, an unintentional second invasion appears to be decreasing foredune height by 50% thereby increasing risk exposure. In addition, many agencies are removing exotic beach grasses to restore habitat for imperiled species listed in the Endangered Species Act. The effects of these conservation actions on flooding risk are unknown. Our objectives are to 1. Determine the effects of climate change on exotic beach grass invasion, 2. Determine the effects of exotic beach grass invasion on coastal vulnerability, and 3. Determine if conservation management alters coastal vulnerability to flooding under a range of climate change, invasion and management scenarios.
We will use published climate change scenarios, remotely sensed beach topography data (lidar), and field experimentation to parameterize coastal process and vulnerability models. These empirically parameterized models will be used to forecast the risk of flooding in coastal communities under a range of climate change and invasion scenarios.
Our work will yield an increased general understanding of interactions among the alteration of coastal ecosystem, species invasions, climate change, and human risk in coastal environments. In addition, we will conduct a quantitative vulnerability assessment of a specific coastal community in Washington. This case study will serve as a template for other applications of our models and data in coastal dunes systems worldwide.