Long-term impacts of beach nourishment on shoreline ecosystems

Beach replenishment – the practice of rebuilding and restoring the eroded beach back to some previous elevation and extent – has become one of the most popular solutions for coastal communities who face the growing problem of chronic beach erosion.

Sandy beaches constitute some 40 percent of all shorelines worldwide, and a large portion of these have been slowly but consistently eroding over the past several decades as a result of sea-level rise and increases in storm-related flooding.

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Research has shown that replenishment, also referred to as beach re-nourishment, is an effective means of offsetting some of these erosive losses and restoring the beach, at least for a time, back into a form that is both protective and recreationally viable.

With funding from the US Coastal Research Program, scientists from the Coastal Studies Institute are conducting a comprehensive study of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge nourishment and control areas to evaluate changes in sediment character, shoreface morphology, biological abundance, and spatial/temporal variations of nesting birds and turtles on timescales of months to multiple (6+) years.

Photo: Coastal Studies Institute