U.S. Geological Survey

Cumulative effects of restoration on barrier islands and shorelines

Coastal restoration to protect communities and preserve sensitive ecosystems has been widespread throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico, with activities including the placement of sediment onshore or in the nearshore zone; construction of beach and dune features; and planting of vegetation. These efforts have intensified over the past 20 years, in large part due to funds invested as part of mitigating the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and major hurricanes such as Katrina and Ike.

The Challenge

Evaluation of coastal restoration project outcomes is mostly commonly focused at the project scale, and there are uncertainties and gaps in understanding of how the northern Gulf of Mexico has evolved in response to the suite of restoration and conservation activities that have occurred. This project advances understanding of the cumulative impacts of coastal restoration projects in this region, enabling decision-makers and stakeholders to better consider how their projects may interact with others on the landscape.

The Approach

The Institute is supporting the USGS, which is leading an effort to evaluate coastal restoration activity impacts as part of A case study assessing the cumulative effects of Deepwater Horizon (DWH) restoration projects on barrier island/barrier shoreline ecosystem resilience in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. The tasks associated with this work include:

  • Develop a conceptual model useful to explore the effects of DWH restoration on the resiliency of barrier islands and barrier shorelines (BI/BS) in the north-central Gulf of Mexico.
  • Identify available information and data from restoration project planning and monitoring and regional level monitoring and model databases to inform the conceptual model.
  • Use remote sensing, spatial analyses, water level predictions to extract identified outcome metrics and to quantify BI/BS changes based on available lidar data.
  • Explore and apply cumulative effects analyses to explore several indicators of BI/BS resilience in response to DWH restoration activities.
  • To produce products to share this research and outcomes with researchers, resource managers and policy makers, and the general public.

The Institute is supporting the tasks above through identifying data sources, providing input on the development of the conceptual model, and collaborating on the development of metrics of evaluating the cumulative effects of restoration projects. This effort builds on Institute experience developing project- and regional-scale metrics for evaluating the trajectory of environmental systems with and without anthropogenic action.