We are applying coupled hydrodynamic and marsh models to evaluate the potential for natural and nature-based features to mitigate flood risk under multiple scenarios, and to quantify the economic and ecosystem value of these features in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. This large-scale research study includes the panhandle of Florida, coastal Alabama, and coastal Mississippi, and the tools developed will provide enhanced detail specific to each region.
Why We Care
Coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico rely on coastal habitat for recreation, economic support, and flood protection. These communities are facing increased flooding risk, accelerated coastal erosion, and loss of vital wetlands and other coastal habitats. These issues threaten coastal infrastructure, commercially important fisheries that depend on inshore waters for adult or nursery habitat, and many other economically important ecosystem services. These issues will get worse with continued sea level rise.
Our assessments will enable decisionmakers, policymakers, and citizens to better understand, assess, and quantify the ability of natural and nature-based features to mitigate surge and nuisance flooding in the context of present and future sea level rise scenarios to make informed decisions that will enhance ecological, societal, and economic conditions in the future.
What We Are Doing
Building on a prior project supported by the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) program, we will enable stakeholders to assess and quantify the ability of natural and nature-based features to mitigate surge and nuisance flooding in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
An advisory group will identify key focal locations of study, suggest plausible natural and nature-based features to be assessed, and guide product development. The advisory group will be directly involved over the four-year cycle of the project via quarterly webinars and annual workshops to guide the project scope and enhance anticipated outcomes.
Based on initial input, we will present our assessments by Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC)–12 to facilitate application to existing Gulf management activities. HUCs are a standardized GIS feature with attributes that will easily support economic and ecosystem services valuation. Further, we will share our results through a NOAA ESRI server, providing web-based data delivery for a single HUC, or region-wide, without specialized software required of the end user.
We will improve an existing hydrodynamic/marsh model (Hydro-MEM) developed through a prior EESLR project, and couple it to economic valuation models. Coupling models to economic and ecosystem valuation models to determine the valuation of natural and nature-based features takes the next important step toward determining the potential of natural and nature-based features in the Gulf of Mexico. Valuation of natural and nature-based features is important to understanding why natural structures are superior to hardened structures in their ability to mitigate flood risk and coastal erosion, while maintaining other benefits of the coast.
Specific science objectives include:
- Refine, enhance, and extend the coupled dynamic, biogeophysical models of coastal morphology, tide, marsh and surge;
- Advance the paradigm shift for sea level rise assessments by linking economic impact analysis and ecosystem service valuation directly to the dynamics of sea level rise;
- Establish and engage an advisory group throughout the entire project; and
- Deliver results via a flexible, multi-platform mechanism that allows for region-wide or place-based assessments of natural and nature-based features.
What We’ve Accomplished
Delivery of a groundbreaking workflow and dataset of flood impacts from nuisance flooding and surge events to buildings, people, roads, and essential facilities. More technical accomplishments include:
- Beach & dune nourishment assessment at Dauphin Island;
- Digital Elevation Models (DEM) for Pascagoula (MS) and the Big Bend (FL);
- A DEM infographic to communicate the utility; and
- Extension of the Hydro-MEM marsh model into the Apalachicola and Big Bend Region.
The effectiveness of beach and dune nourishment on morphological resilience at Dauphin Island, AL was assessed over a 30-year period accounting for future storms and a moderate amount of SLR. The Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) in the project contributed to significant improvements to HAZUS v3.2, including a fix to a defect associated with the sum of damaged buildings, upgraded economic losses to 2018 value, and enhanced building area and replacement costs for essential facilities, which was identified from presenting early results to end users with local knowledge of the region. An EIA application includes six infographics as well as the story map explaining the data. Dauphin Island (AL) utilized the economic impact and flood plain data to conduct a fiscal impact analysis of the island and inform future development. Economic impact data are being considered for inclusion in the Florida state climate assessment and vulnerability assessments for Apalachicola and East Bay (FL). There will also be an updated marsh data viewer from updated Hydro-MEM outputs and introduction to the story map.
The project led to 18 peer-reviewed publications and provided science outputs for the award winning Resilience to Future Flooding project, which developed short films and other communication materials.
This project is led by Louisiana State University, and is funded through the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise program. Project partners include Louisiana State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Carolina, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, and NOAA's Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative.