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Project Details

Codevelopment of Modeling Tools to Manage Sediment for Sustainable and Resilient Coastal Lowland Habitat in Southern California

Project Status: This project began in September 2016 and is projected to be completed in August 2020

We will advance scientific, engineering, and policy perspectives on how sediment can be managed in coastal lowlands to reduce flood risk, bank instability, and erosion risk. We will evaluate sediment management practices for both average and extreme event conditions by investigating how varying tides, stream flow, and precipitation influence sediment, a fundamental feature of coastal lowlands.

Why We Care
The Southern California coastline is characterized by highly developed upland habitat and less developed rocky cliffs, coastal lowlands, estuaries, and beaches pinned between the developed upland and the Pacific Ocean. This coastal lowland region is less than two meters above current high tide levels and includes over 17,000 square miles of estuarine habitat. This region of the country is culturally and economically dependent on the coastline, and contains estuarine habitats that host numerous threatened or endangered species.
 

What We Are Doing
We will evaluate sediment management scenarios in lowland watersheds of Southern California by developing models specific to the two largest estuarine systems in the region: the Tijuana River Estuary and the Newport Beach Estuary. These systems represent a sediment rich, natural system, and a sediment poor, urban system, respectively.

The models will link scenarios of sediment management with resultant effects on natural infrastructure (e.g., beaches and wetlands), then assess vulnerability of the region to sea level rise and extreme weather events under the scenario. These tools will enable analysis of (1) flood risk, (2) sediment instability and erosion risk, and (3) habitat distribution afforded by alternative sediment management practices.

We will also develop a framework to improve the characterization of extreme events (flood hazards) associated with multiple drivers, such as a combination of storm tides, streamflow, and precipitation. This important modeling challenge facing coastal areas has yet to be systematically addressed, and is a fundamental issue for analyzing and comparing alternative strategies to avoid the inundation of coastal lowlands.

A management advisory team will codevelop models with the lead scientists to ensure that the resultant tools and information have the greatest potential to explain tradeoffs in sediment management approaches in ways that can guide management and policy decisions for coastal lowlands in Southern California. The outcomes of this project will be to improve knowledge and tools for the innovative management of sediment. Our recommendations for sediment management will support regional policy and practice to ensure coastal lowlands can adapt to rising sea levels.

The project is led by the University of California, Irvine and is funded through the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise program. Project partners include the University of California, Irvine; and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.

Region of Study: California

Primary Contact: David Kidwell

Research Theme: Climate Impacts (Impacts of Sea Level Rise, Vulnerability Assessments)

Related NCCOS Center: CSCOR



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