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Preparing for future storms in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

Three North Atlantic LCC projects funded through Hurricane Sandy Department of the Interior Resiliency Funds are underway and developing the science to help LCC partners understand how to make streams, beaches and tidal marshes more resilient to future storms and sea level rise. Here are some quick updates on these projects along with a summary of expected products:

Streams

Collaboratively Increasing Resiliency and Improving Standards for Culverts and Road Stream Crossings to Future Floods While Restoring Aquatic Connectivity.  Building on an LCC-funded project on stream resiliency, this project is using a partner-driven, science-based approach for identifying and prioritizing road stream crossings in the Hurricane Sandy area for increasing resilience to future floods while improving aquatic connectivity.  Agreements are in place with collaborators including University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Wildlife Management Institute, Northeast Climate Science Center and Conservation Biology Institute.  A team including these collaborators, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and all Northeast State fish and wildlife agencies is being assembled to oversee the project, develop consistent survey protocols and databases and prioritize survey efforts.  This work will result in an intensive two-year road-stream crossing survey effort by Service and state partners across the region starting in the spring of 2015.  Products and uses from this project will include:

 

  • Standing Northeast regional aquatic connectivity project advisory team including all state fish and wildlife agencies in the region that can guide future collaborative efforts.
  • Consistent road-stream crossing assessment protocols and comprehensive Stream Continuity road-stream crossings database for the Northeast Region to be used by federal, state and local partners involved in collaboratively assessing and restoring aquatic connectivity and resiliency of crossings.
  • Road stream crossing survey/assessment results using consistent Northeast protocols and database for prioritized watersheds and crossings to improve data for prioritizing restoration of aquatic connectivity and resiliency of crossings to be used by federal, state and local partners.
  • Hydraulic response and risk assessment to climate change (including future flood events) for pilot watersheds extrapolated for region allowing estimates of relative risk of failure of road-stream crossings and culverts under current and predicted future stream flows to be used by state and town transportation and emergency management agencies.
  • Recommendations for crossing/culvert replacement standards and robust designs to withstand future flood events and provide guidance to be used by state and town transportation and emergency management agencies.
  • Web User Interface (WUI) where users can rank and select crossings based on aquatic organism passage, hydrologic vulnerability, and ecological metrics, and optimize stream crossings for removal/replacement according to single and multiple criteria at a range of spatial scales to be used by federal, state and local partners involved in assessing and restoring aquatic connectivity and resiliency of crossings.
  • Training including webinar training for users targeting policy-makers on the local and state level as well as those constituencies that may be responding to post-flooding events; and on-the-ground workshops  targeting local road commissions, heavy equipment operators, flood responders, and similar constituencies ;  soliciting feedback from partners and exploring the option of a participant certification program.

 

Beaches

Decision Support for Hurricane Sandy Restoration and Future Conservation to Increase Resiliency of Beach Habitats and Beach-Dependent Species in the Face of Storms and Sea Level Rise.  Building on a recently completed North Atlantic LCC sea-level rise project, this coordinated effort through the LCC is integrating monitoring, models and tools to guide decisions about where and how to conduct beach restoration, conservation and management to sustain ecological values, ecosystem services and habitat suitability of beaches in the face of storm impacts and sea level rise in the Hurricane Sandy region.  Agreements are in place with collaborators including Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, Conserve Wildlife New Jersey, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Terwilliger Consulting, Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), Mid-Atlantic Council on the Ocean (MARCO), and Conservation Biology Institute.  Initial surveys and field work were completed in the spring and summer of 2014 including intensive survey work on Fire Island (New York) and in New Jersey and extensive survey work on piping plovers and other beach nesting birds at National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks across the region.  A smartphone application (iPlover) was developed, tested and deployed to efficiently collect data on piping plover nests resulting in more than 300 nest sites being entered into a regional model of beach habitat suitability.  Results from this field season will guide the next two years of field work.  Products and uses from this project will include:

  • Beach and tidal inlet inventories, analyses, databases, and reports assessing changes to the baseline of tidal inlet and sandy beach habitats before, immediately following Hurricane Sandy and after beach management to be used by state and federal managers and biologists to understand changes, impacts from management and plan future species and habitat management.
  • Beach-nesting bird location and habitat data collected on and adjacent to key coastal National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks from Maine to Virginia to provide finer-scale projections of habitat changes including the development of smartphone app for efficient collection of data to be used by federal, state, local and NGO beach managers to prioritize habitat and species management actions and efficiently collect future data.
  • Site-specific and regional models and decision support tools that relate sea level rise, storms and management to beach habitat suitability for piping plover and other beach dependent species for guiding regional, state and local decisions on how and where to manage beaches and beach-dependent species in the face of change.
  • North Atlantic LCC modeling framework integrating beach resiliency and habitat information along with predicted effects of climate change, urban growth and conservation to be used by LCC and other federal, state and local conservation partners as part of overall conservation design efforts.
  • Assessments of the impacts of beach nourishment and other stabilization activities completed in response to Hurricane Sandy on the resiliency of beaches, beach habitats and beach-dependent species and recommendations for beach management to be used by state and federal managers to plan and implement long-term and storm response management.
  • Science delivery program to make coastal resiliency information and tools easily available decision makers at scales and formats needed delivery network through NROC and MARCO to coastal states and communities as well as beach restoration, protection and management decision-makers.

Tidal Marshes

Decision Support for Hurricane Sandy Restoration and Future Conservation to Increase Resiliency of Tidal Wetland Habitats and Species in the Face of Storms and Sea Level Rise.  This coordinated effort by North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) partners is integrating data, models and tools to guide decisions about where to conduct tidal marsh restoration, conservation and management to sustain ecological values, ecosystem services, habitat suitability and resiliency of tidal marshes and marsh species in the face of storm impacts, sea level rise and other stressors.  Agreements are in place with a consortium of partners through the Saltmarsh Habitat Avian Research Partnership (SHARP) including the University of Connecticut, University of Maine, University of Delaware, State University of New York, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and with other partners including University of South Carolina, University of Central Florida, University of Massachusetts, The Nature Conservancy, Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), Mid-Atlantic Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and Conservation Biology Institute.  Products and uses from this project will include:

  • Regionally-consistent tidal marsh data and maps including elevation and tidal marsh habitat mapping to be used by federal, state and NGO land managers and as well as conservation planners, researchers and modelers.
  • Integrated physical/biological marsh response models and decision support tools for projecting future impacts of sea level rise and storms on tidal marshes and marsh species at specific sites and across the region for guiding marsh protection, management and restoration decisions to be used by range of partners involved in tidal wetland protection, restoration and management at regional, state and local scales.
  • Assessment and mapping of marsh resiliency and integrity based on regionally consistent data and metrics to identify areas of highest integrity/resiliency for marsh protection and management to be used by range of conservation partners at regional, state and local scales.
  • North Atlantic LCC modeling framework integrating tidal marsh resiliency and habitat information along with predicted effects of climate change, urban growth and conservation to be used by LCC and other federal, state and local conservation partners as part of overall conservation design efforts.
  • Monitoring and assessments of the effectiveness of DOI and partner tidal wetland restoration approaches completed in response to Hurricane Sandy for increasing resiliency of marshes and marsh-obligate species to future storms and sea level rise and recommendations for future restoration efforts. Will be used range of partners involved in tidal wetland restoration and management at regional, state and local scales and by DOI to assess success of projects and recommend future approaches.
  • Science delivery program to make marsh resiliency information and tools easily available to decision makers at scales and formats needed delivery network through NROC and MARCO to coastal states and communities as well as marsh restoration, protection and management decision-makers.

 

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