Beach nourishment is not a sustainable strategy to mitigate climate change

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 2:00pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2018
Date published: 11/2018
Authors: Randall Parkinson, Danielle Ogurcak
Journal title: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Volume: 212
Pages: 203 - 209
ISSN: 02727714

Some studies published over the past several decades have concluded nourishment of oceanic beaches is a viable strategy to mitigate climate change. However, these were generally too limited in scope to accurately evaluate beach nourishment because each omit one or more of the following: (1) a realistic assessment of potential borrow area sand volume, (2) native beach compatibility, (3) construction costs, (4) all vulnerable geomorphic elements of the coastal zone, and (5) environmental impacts. When all of these parameters are considered, the results are markedly different. To demonstrate our point, we evaluated the recommendations of Houston (2017) using all five parameters. Contrary to Houston, we provide multiple lines of evidence that beach fill projects are not a sustainable strategy to protect or defend oceanic beaches of the Florida panhandle (USA), nor likely most of the world's developed coastlines at risk to the effects of climate change. The nourishment of oceanic beaches as historically constructed will surely continue over the next several decades. But, it must be done as an interim strategy during the formulation and implementation of a robust, long-term adaptive management strategy that incorporates managed withdrawal from the coastline.

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