Sea levels are rising, and storm intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy showed the state of New Jersey the power of storms that climate change is predicted to bring to the Northeast coast. Researchers are looking for ways to protect and preserve the natural integrity of the coastline. One new approach is called “Living shorelines.” By using wetland plants, natural structures, and shellfish breakwaters, wave energy is absorbed and erosion is reduced. This method can also help to protect coastal areas from regular flooding and storm damage. The goal is to make the coast more resilient so that upland areas are protected while maintaining the ecological function of the shoreline. Money Island and Gandy’s Beach are located along the New Jersey coast of Delaware Bay. This important area for fisherman, oyster farmers, and wildlife is being impacted by climate change. In response, Rutgers University and its partners are working to create a living shoreline here to reduce damage from future storms, provide habitat for wildlife, and improve water quality.
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“One of the main benefits of doing this is that you maintain the connection between the aquatic environment and the terrestrial environment. There’s an interface there where those two things meet, and that interface allows life and living processes to move from aquatic environments into terrestrial environments, and if you stop that and you break that interface, now you’ve got a different sort of ecological process happening that’s not quite as productive for the ecosystem.”
- Dave Bushek, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory Rutgers University