Social and Ecological Factors Influencing Shoreline Hardening in the Northeast: Implications for vulnerability, resilience and informed decision making (Regional)

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/NERR14-3WH-NH
Inception Date: 
2014
Completion Date: 
2016

Participants:

Jonathan Grabowski Northeastern University Principal Investigator
Matthias Ruth Northeastern University Co-Principal Investigator
Objectives: 

Objective 1: To identify potential linkages among shoreline development, coastal and marine habitats, ecosystem services and human vulnerability throughout the northeastern U.S.

Objective 2: To characterize linkages between social capital, environmental connectedness, resilience and adaptive capacity.

Objective 3: To determine the extent to which coastal development and armoring affects perceptions and acceptance of ocean-based wind energy development.

Objective 4: To examine the effectiveness of coastal policy at protecting shoreline habitats, ecosystem services and reducing human vulnerability to natural disturbances.

Methodology: 

In Objective 1, we will examine linkages among shoreline development, coastal habitat, and human societies using meta-analysis of existing information on biophysical, ecological, and socioeconomic data to identify areas of high social and ecological vulnerability.

In Objective 2, we will use telephone and face-to-face surveys to examine linkages between social capital and resiliency of coastal communities, identify what the perceived natural threats are facing coastal habitats, and assess how willing they are to invest in coastal protection and restoration to reveal the value of ecosystem services.

In Objective 3, we will include a series of questions in the survey used in Objective 2 to quantify spatial patterns of support for or opposition to ocean-based wind energy development as well as identify potential drivers (e.g., social capital, environmental connectedness, adaptive capacity) of acceptance/opposition.

In Objective 4, we will conduct a polycentric policy analysis throughout the entire region to examine how local, state and federal polices align with the social and ecological tradeoffs of coastal development and its impacts on shoreline habitats.

Rationale: 

Coastal populations are growing, which is adding to the mounting strain on coastal ecosystems. This trend is particularly problematic given that habitats naturally distributed in coastal ecosystems contribute a disproportionately large array of highly valuable ecosystem services. The goal of this project is to identify whether human vulnerability in coastal populations is tied to shoreline development and the integrity of coastal and marine habitats. Furthermore, we seek to identify the degree to which social capital, environmental connectedness, and adaptive capacity in coastal communities is linked to human and ecological resilience. In addition, we aim to provide managers with insights regarding the degree to which shoreline armoring influences perceptions of and acceptance of ocean-based wind energy development. Finally, we aim to assess the efficacy of coastal policy at protecting shorelines and reducing human vulnerability in order to reveal which coastal shoreline policies should be implemented vs. those that are less successful. Our proposal is directly responsive to several priorities identified, especially: (1) Socioeconomic research in support of management decisions which address the balance among economic development, ecosystem protection and sustainability, (2) Advancement of our understanding of the vulnerabilities and resiliencies of coastal communities to a changing environment and economy, and (3) Evaluation of the effectiveness of current governance institutions and regulatory frameworks.

Accomplishments: 

2015

Researchers complete mapping, data gathering and surveys to examine patterns in social and ecological vulnerabilities

Researchers funded by the Northeast Sea Grant Consortium are making progress toward identifying whether human vulnerability in coastal populations is tied to shoreline development and the integrity of coastal and marine habitats.
Relevance: Coastal populations are growing, which is adding to the mounting strain on coastal ecosystems. This trend is particularly problematic given that habitats naturally distributed in coastal ecosystems contribute a disproportionately large array of highly valuable ecosystem services.
Response: The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium funded a project to identify whether human vulnerability in coastal populations is tied to shoreline development and the integrity of coastal and marine habitats. The project addresses four objectives: identify potential linkages among shoreline development, coastal and marine habitats, ecosystem services and human vulnerability throughout the Northeastern U.S.; examine linkages between social capital, environmental connectedness, resilience and adaptive capacity; explore the extent to which coastal development and armoring affects perceptions and acceptance of ocean-based wind energy development; and examine the effectiveness of coastal policy at protecting coastal habitats and accounting for human vulnerability.
Results: Researchers have completed initial spatial mapping of coastal habitats and social vulnerability, including a comprehensive review of coastal restoration projects (using the National Estuary Restoration Inventory Database), the distribution of natural and artificial habitats throughout the region (Gittman et al., 2015, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment), and social vulnerability indices, and have started to integrate these data with the Natural Capital Project's Invest models for coastal vulnerability, protection and restoration. Researchers have also completed an online survey of coastal residents from Delaware to Maine and conducted focused interviews with residents from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Results will be integrated using spatial visualization models to examine geographical patterns in social and ecological vulnerabilities.

2013

Northeast Sea Grant Consortium supports regional socio-economic projects
During 2013, the Northeast Sea Grant Consortium issued a regional call for socio-economic proposals specifically in the areas of offshore energy utilization and coastal resiliency to impacts of climate change. For that solicitation, we received 30 pre-proposals. A pre-proposal review panel included all Northeast Sea Grant directors, in addition to representatives from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC). Nine pre-proposals were selected for full proposal development and from those proposals three were selected for support to begin in FY2014. The selected proposals are:

Johnston, Robert J., Moeltner, K., Blinn, C., and Feurt, C. (Clark University) Coastal hazards and Northeast housing values: comparative implications for climate change adaptation and community resilience. Amount awarded: Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

Hoagland, P., Duff, J., Jin, D., and Kite-Powell, H. (WHOI) Buy out or build back? A comparative assessment of approaches to employing public funding to vulnerable coastal properties in the Northeastern United States. Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

Grabowski, J.H. and Ruth, M. (Northeastern University) Social and ecological factors influencing shoreline hardening in the Northeast: Implications for vulnerability, resilience, and informed decision making. Amount awarded: Year 1 $87,500; Year 2 $87,500.

The first two projects were supported by Omnibus funds to the seven northeast sea Grant programs (Maine, N.H., MIT, WHOI, R.I., Conn., and N.Y.); the third project was supported by additional funds from the National Sea Grant Office allocated to each of these programs.