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Evaluating Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Options for Coastal Resilience

Project Information

Principal Investigators: Katharine Jacobs, University of Arizona, Richard Moss, University of Arizona
Proposed Project Completion: June 2023
Implements Science Plan Theme: Adaptation


The fast pace of change in coastal zones, the trillions of dollars of investment in human communities in coastal areas, and the myriad of ecosystem services natural coastal environments provide makes managing climate-related risks along coasts a massive challenge for all of the U.S. coastal states and territories. Answering questions about both the costs and the benefits of alternative adaptation strategies in the near term is critical to taxpayers, decision-makers, and to the biodiversity of the planet. There is significant public and private interest in using ecosystem based adaptation approaches to conserve critical significant ecosystems in coastal watersheds, estuaries and intertidal zones and to protect man-made infrastructure and communities that are at risk within the coastal zone. To date there have been relatively few efforts to evaluate the lessons learned from on-the-ground experience with implementing ecosystem based adaptation approaches.

In order to explore the potential to scale up application of coastal ecosystem based adaptation approaches , the research team will begin to synthesize existing case studies and experience in order to identify best practices and remaining knowledge gaps. The research team will: 1) clarify the research questions that relate to assessment and implementation of these approaches across the wide array of coastal conditions; 2) evaluate the findings of existing published and unpublished reports and interview selected individuals with direct experience in ecosystem based adaptation projects; 3) conduct a pilot-scale assessment that integrates on the-ground experience with the perspective of ecologists, engineers, and others who have relevant experience about costs and benefits of alternative approaches; 4) prepare summary findings regarding the state of knowledge of the effectiveness of the approaches in the CASC contexts; and 5) prepare recommendations about research needs. The primary objective of this project is to develop and test a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation efforts across spatial and temporal scales in order to escalate progress. This framework will help articulate the current state of knowledge and practice of ecosystem based adaptation and propose a research agenda for future investments. (Note: this project is jointly supported by the SW, NE, SE, SC, AK, PI, and National CASC)