Seagrass beds are so effective in protecting tropical beaches from erosion, that they can reduce the need for regular, expensive beach nourishments that are used now.
In a recent article in the journal BioScience, biologists and engineers from The Netherlands and Mexico describe experiments and field observations around the Caribbean Sea. “A foreshore with both healthy seagrass beds as well as calcifying algae, is a resilient and sustainable option in coastal defense”, says lead author Rebecca James, PhD-candidate at the University of Groningen and the Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), The Netherlands. “Because of erosion, the economic value of Caribbean beaches literally drains into the sea.”
Increasing erosion with climate change
The authors looked at beaches of the Caribbean Sea, where almost a quarter of the Gross Domestic Product is earned in tourism, mainly around the beaches. “With the increase of coastal development, the natural flow of water and sand is disrupted, natural ecosystems are damaged, and many tropical beaches have already disappeared into the sea”, co-author Rodolfo Silva, professor of Coastal Engineering at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Mexico says. “Until now, expensive coastal engineering efforts, such as repeated beach nourishments and concrete walls to protect the coast, have been made to combat erosion. Rising sea-level and increasing storms will only increase the loss of these important beaches.”
Experimental field flume
To find out to what extent seagrass beds are able to hold sand and sediment on the beach foreshores, James and her promotor, professor Tjeerd Bouma (NIOZ and Utrecht University), conducted a simple but telling experiment. With a portable and adjustable field flume to regulate water motion in a Caribbean bay, they observed when particles on the sea bed started moving. “We showed that seagrass beds were extremely effective at holding sediment in place”, James says. “Especially in combination with calcifying algae that “create their own sand”, a foreshore with healthy seagrass appeared a sustainable way of combating erosion.”
More seagrass, less erosion
Along the coastline of the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan, the team put their theory to the test. “By looking at beaches with and without protection of healthy seagrass beds, we showed that the amount of erosion was strongly linked to the amount of vegetation: more seagrass, meant less erosion”, co-author dr. Brigitta van Tussenbroek of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma in Mexico says. At beaches where seagrass beds were destroyed, the researchers saw a sudden strong increase in erosion, resulting in an immediate need of expensive beach nourishments.
Promising future prospects
Both NGO’s and engineering industry welcome these novel insights. “To date, seagrass beds are too often regarded as a nuisance, rather than a valuable asset for preserving touristically valuable coastlines. This study could change this perspective completely”, Bas Roels of World Wildlife Fund Netherlands says. “The study opens opportunities for developing new tropical-beach protection schemes, in which ecology is integrated in engineering solutions”, adds Mark van Koningsveld, professor at the Delft University of Technology and working for the international marine contractor Van Oord.
According to co-author Johan Stapel of the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CSNI) on St. Eustatius this will require a multilateral approach in conservation and restoration, as seagrass faces increasing pressure from various sources of pollution and invasive species. “Fortunately, NIOZ has a strong tradition in successfully restoring all kinds of coastal vegetation from seagrass to mangroves”, Bouma concludes.
Learn more: Seagrass saves beaches and money
The Latest on: Restoring coastal vegetation
[google_news title=”” keyword=”restoring coastal vegetation” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]
via Google News
The Latest on: Restoring coastal vegetation
- Louisiana Coastal Restoration Projects Get $9.3 Millionon December 7, 2022 at 11:06 am
A total of 88 grants were announced for organizations in 29 states and U.S. territories amounting to more than $136 million. In Louisiana, matching money from local sponsors will increase the funding ...
- East Hampton, Little Neck get grants using nature to protect coast from stormson December 7, 2022 at 6:44 am
The federal grants will pay for natural measures, such as mollusks and vegetation, to build up coastline resistance to erosion and storm surge, experts said.
- Four Louisiana coastal restoration projects to get $9.3 millionon December 7, 2022 at 1:01 am
Four grants totaling $8.8 million for coastal restoration projects in southeast Louisiana were among dozens nationwide announced Tuesday in New Orleans by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and N ...
- Restoring NY-NJ Estuary will create breathtaking views and moreon December 6, 2022 at 10:43 am
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to restore New York metro's degrading estuary.
- What successful forest restoration looks likeon December 6, 2022 at 8:59 am
Where, when, and how you plant trees will affect how long they live and how much carbon they sequester, according to a new study.
- Race to restore eroding Florida beaches is onon December 4, 2022 at 11:45 pm
MIAMI — Florida's sandy beaches aren't just beautiful and one of the biggest money-makers in the state's tourism-based economy. They're also the first line of defense against storm surge flooding ...
- Restoring a treasure: Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary passes hard-fought habitat milestoneon December 4, 2022 at 7:51 am
Willows have invaded Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary snd are wrecking habitat, but land managers are fighting back – and winning ...
- ‘Sand is like gold.’ The pricey race to restore Florida beaches before the next hurricaneon December 4, 2022 at 5:30 am
For decades, Florida has been restoring its beaches by dredging ... Sand that has the wrong color or grain type can harm plants and animals, like the sea turtles that build their nests along the ...
- A Race to Restore Florida Beaches Before the Next Hurricaneon November 30, 2022 at 10:19 am
Our dune system is a coastal protection system. Because the dunes were so damaged from Ian, it didn’t take much for Nicole to further damage them and cause flooding in many neighborhoods.” ...
- Native plants are bringing new life to L.A.'s ravaged areas. Here's how to helpon November 30, 2022 at 4:00 am
December is prime planting time for native plants in Los Angeles, and habitat restoration projects are looking for volunteers ... or is it the other way around?
via Bing News