CSDMS 2024: Coastlines, Critical Zones and Cascading Hazards: Modeling Dynamic Interfaces from Deep Time to Human Time

Adapting Urban Coastlines to Climate Change: using models to understand the potential and pitfalls of nature-based solutions

Julia Hopkins

Northeastern University, United States

Urban areas located along the coastline face critical choices in the coming decades to respond effectively to climate change, especially with regards to sea level rise (SLR) and intensified ocean storms. These choices include adaptation to let the water in, retreat to avoid new flooded areas, or resilient infrastructure to keep the water out. Nature-based solutions (NBS), which range from restoration of existing ecosystems to infrastructure inspired by natural ecosystems, have the potential to soften the consequences of choosing either hard infrastructure or adaptation. However, in urban environments the lack of available land space may reduce the efficacy of traditional NBS (e.g. living shorelines). Here, we present work to understand and alleviate the problem of NBS efficacy in an urban area with little space to give back to the natural environment. We use coastal hydrodynamic models of the Boston Harbor to show the potential for a range of NBS to protect against storms and SLR with the available area for these kinds of infrastructure projects. We further show how these models can be simplified and used as tools to understand trade-offs between NBS, hard infrastructure, and retreat, which may be as likely to come from an adaptation strategy as from SLR. Finally, we discuss our models of combinations of these solutions, and the current potential for NBS to protect an urban area from climate change.

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Of interest for:
  • Coastal Working Group
  • Critical Zone Focus Research Group
  • Coastal Vulnerability Initiative