Wetlands

Coastal communities need protection from hurricanes and rising seas. But they’re not just building higher sea walls. Engineers are also working on solutions that include more natural features.

Todd Bridges of the Army Corps of Engineers says reefs and islands can act as barriers that help decrease wave energy, and wetlands can hold floodwater. So restoring or building them can reduce the pressure on coastal levees and seawalls, “to provide resilience against coastal storms, and waves and surge that are associated with those kinds of events,” Bridges says.

He says there are other benefits, too.

“During the rest of the year, for example, when you don’t have these high-water events, that space is providing other kinds of services for wildlife and for fish and for people to recreate.”

For example, the Army Corps helped restore a marsh near Stone Harbor, New Jersey. The marsh helps reduce flooding in the nearby community and provides habitat for shorebirds like the endangered black skimmer.

Bridges says each area is unique, so the balance of natural features and concrete infrastructure will vary. But blending the two can help protect people and preserve the beauty of coastal landscapes.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.