Sustained Assessment of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation

Photo: Jessica Reilly-Moman

Managing climate-related risks to critical ecosystem services and trillions of dollars in coastal investments is a massive challenge facing all US coastal states and territories. There is significant public and private interest in nature-based approaches and ecosystem-based adaptation to help conserve ecosystems and protect man-made infrastructure and communities. Coastal communities increasingly attempt to fund, plan, implement, and monitor projects such as augmenting salt marshes, protecting and replacing dunes, and building oyster reefs, to name a few, but there have been relatively few efforts to collect and compare the lessons learned from on-the-ground implementation. 

To articulate the current state of knowledge and practice of coastal green infrastructure and explore the potential to scale up application of nature-based coastal adaptation, AGCI Fellow Jessica Reilly-Moman and the University of Arizona’s Kathy Jacobs are using a sustained assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of ecosystem-based adaptation to meet coastal adaptation needs across spatial and temporal scales. This sustained assessment framework extends traditional climate assessment literature review by engaging participatory social science methods and building a national community of practice for coastal nature-based adaptation. To understand the state of practice for planning, implementation, and monitoring, the project draws together existing research, reports, and case studies, along with extensive on-the-ground practitioner knowledge and experience. 

Supported by the Department of the Interior US Geological Survey’s Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), the project clarifies the research questions that relate to assessment and implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation across a wide array of US coastal conditions. We share lessons learned from piloting the sustained assessment approach; identify leading practices, key emergent themes, and knowledge gaps for EbA; and provide recommendations for future research with the goal of accelerating sea level rise adaptation that supports both nature and society at the shore.