Coastal Alabama Recognized for Innovation by American Society of Adaptation Professionals
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was recognized at the May, 2015 National Adaptation Forum for it’s work alongside its key partners Alabama Coastal Foundation, Mobile Baykeeper and The Ocean Foundation) in coastal Alabama.
The National Adaptation Forum is “a biennial gathering created by a group of professionals from the private and public sectors concerned about the need to respond to and prepare for the effects of climate change.” This year’s gathering of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) honored TNC as one of four finalists for the Prize in Progress for work in coastal Alabama. As part of the Coastal Resilience Alabama project, TNC has successfully formed a coalition to restore 100 miles of oyster reefs and more than 1,000 acres of coastal marsh and seagrass. The 2015 Prize for Progress highlights the practices of leading U.S. public, private, nonprofit, and academic organizations that have reduced risk and vulnerability of natural or human systems to extreme weather events and climate change.
“The community based restoration efforts in Mobile Bay are multipurpose enhancing the natural environment with oyster reefs that will produce oysters, crabs and shrimp but will also protect the shoreline by stabilizing sediments, and dampening wave energy while decreasing coastal erosion.” said Kathy McLeod, Director for Climate Risk & Resilience at The Nature Conservancy. “This national recognition celebrates progress in the growing green infrastructure field and helps build the case for large-scale implementations of nature-based disaster risk reduction efforts.”
Where should the reefs go?
Deciding where to place the permitted oyster reefs was dependent feedback from the key stakeholders but also through utilization the Coastal Defense app, part of the Coastal Resilience tool platform, designed specifically for this project. The browser-based app helps stakeholders identify and place appropriate nature-based solutions to reduce risk and increase community resilience.
“The Coastal Defense app is simple to use and is a quick way to show someone how a living shoreline dampens wave energy along their property while adding habitat value”, explained Mary Kate Brown, Coastal Conservation Specialist for the Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “It provides a great conversation starter because people react better to visual examples and diagrams than just our explanation.”
Is it working?
“Ecosystem service benefits are already being observed at some of the first oyster restoration sites that were completed as part of the Restore Coastal Alabama project”, explained Judy Haner, Marine and Freshwater Director for The Nature Conservancy is Alabama.
At the Helen Wood Park site, salt marsh behind the oyster restoration expanded its footprint by 7.5% in less than a year without any marsh planting. At the Swift Tract site, the shoreline remained stable during Tropical Storm Isaac which made landfall in August of 2012. The shoreline to the south suffered erosion ranging from 1-6 feet, while the coastline shoreward of the oyster restoration was stable and did not experience any significant erosion.
“Continued monitoring of this type on additional demonstration sites will build quantifiable metrics of success to help make a more compelling case for large scale natural infrastructure investments”, Haner said.
Laura Flessner, who accepted the award on behalf of The Nature Conservancy, is one of the main designers of the Coastal Defense app. She thinks that this type of recognition by innovative practitioners in the filed climate adaptation highlights the need to communicate green infrastructure success stories to others to act as a template of action.
“The Restore Coastal Alabama project provides a great example of how successful the Coastal Resilience approach and decision support tool framework can be in communicating the value of nature-based risk reduction solutions to stakeholders as well as supporting project implementation” she explained. “Projects like these mainstream the implementation of natural defenses for reducing risks and adapting to coastal threats and will ultimately change the way we develop and grow in a more sustainable way along the Gulf coast in the U.S. and coastal communities globally”.
Read more here about the project “ASAP Snapshot Restore Coastal Alabama”
Click here to see demonstration videos on the Coastal Defense and other apps.
Story contributed by Amanda Wrona Meadows