ASBPA: Research Crucial to Nearshore’s Future

America’s coastal nearshore is in need of further integrated research and the nurturing of a “nearshore community” to ensure its fragile resources are being properly managed and protected.

That’s the conclusion of a recently published extensive report which sprang out of a 2014 workshop engaging academic, industry and governmental stakeholders.

This report, along with a companion piece looking at the last 40 years of nearshore research, was published in the most recent issues of “Shore & Beach,” a peer-reviewed technical journal published by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) since 1933.

For the purposes of this study, the nearshore is defined as “the transition region between land and the continental shelf including (from onshore to offshore) coastal plains, wetlands, estuaries, coastal cliffs, dunes, beaches, surf zones (regions of waves breaking) and the inner shelf.”

Home to some 1 billion people worldwide (and just under 40% of the U.S. population as well) along with species and habitats too numerous to count, the nearshore is coming under increased duress both by coastal urbanization and climate change-driven events. Spurred by this, a workshop brought together nearshore experts from across the spectrum to craft a research vision to help direct efforts in the future.

This vision encompasses three broad research themes:

– Long-term coastal evolution due to natural and human-caused processes, seeking “proactive solutions for resilient coasts and better guidance for reducing coastal vulnerability.

– Extreme events, such as “flooding, erosion and the subsequent recovery,” which are accounting for greater economic losses. Better understanding of the physical processes during such events will lead both to better modeling (to anticipate and mitigate potential damages) and more resilient coastal communities.

– “The physical, biological and chemical processes impacting human and ecosystem health,” both to lessen pollution and other degradation and to aide in the recovery of already affected ecosystems.

These themes seek to create a vision “where societal needs and science challenges intersect,” according to the report. Given the significant economic and societal impact of nearshore events, the ability to establish more predictive and potent science-based studies could have significant benefits, the authors assert.

To achieve this vision will take an infrastructure to pursue these research themes. Toward that end, the report proposes the following:

– “Build a sustained multi-agency funded U.S. Nearshore Research Program (NRP) that would coordinate and fund nearshore processes research to address the three broad research themes via the development of new research infrastructure.”

– “Formalize a Nearshore Community Council (NCC) with rotating representatives from academia, government agencies, and industry.”