Innovative research in Grenada demonstrates how coral reef restoration improves coastal resilience

Coral reef, Grenada. Image credit: Karli Drinkwater
Oceans

Recently published research from Grenada demonstrates how healthy coral reefs help protect coastlines from flooding and erosion:

Working in Grenville Bay, Grenada, the researchers showed that degradation of coral reefs is directly linked to shoreline erosion and coastal flooding in parts of the bay. The study, published February 1 in the Journal of Environmental Management, also evaluates one of the first uses of reef restoration as natural infrastructure specifically designed to reduce risks to people and property.

Investigating the link between healthy reefs and shoreline stability, the researchers found that Grenville’s healthy reefs keep more than half of the bay’s coastline intact by reducing the wave energy arriving on shore. In contrast, severe reef degradation is linked with chronic coastal erosion in the northern section of the bay, where the shoreline is disappearing at a rate of nearly two feet every year.

In an attempt to adapt, villagers have built makeshift barriers with tires and driftwood to slow the erosion threatening their homes, but these efforts have been largely unsuccessful. The reef restoration project was designed to enhance both the ecological functions of natural reef habitat and its protective effects.

“We are able to apply coastal engineering tools and models to support reef science and management. Ours is one of the first studies to directly show with evidence from the field sites and engineering models the impacts of reef loss on shorelines,” said lead author Borja Reguero, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

Read more in this media release from the University of California Santa Cruz. The complete research paper is available online: “Coral reefs for coastal protection: A new methodological approach and engineering case study in Grenada.”

The study was part of the Nature Conservancy-led coral reef restoration project called At the Water’s Edge. Watch the video below to learn more about the project.

 

[Image credit: Karli Drinkwater]

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