NOAA Grants UCI $1.15 Million for Coastal Research

Balboa BeachNov. 8, 2016 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Science has awarded UC Irvine researchers $1.15 million for their efforts to understand and mitigate sea level rise and storm surge impacts on changing coastal landscapes. Funding comes through NOAA’s competitive Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) program.

With the four-year award, researchers will develop modeling tools to analyze how sediment management practices affect the stability of coastal communities and wetlands facing the tests of climate change.

"Sediment is the most valuable resource we have for dealing with the risks of rising seas and storm events on coastal development, wetland habitat and the iconic beaches of Southern California,” says lead researcher Brett Sanders, UCI professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. “This project will work toward sediment management policies and practices that respond to this challenge. We will also develop interactive modeling tools so communities can plan for the future."

The UCI researchers are partnering with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). Together they will use the new modeling approach to analyze flood risk, sediment instability and erosion risk, and habitat distributions under various climate change scenarios projected through the next 80 years. They’ll examine and compare alternatives in sediment management practices to see what might work best to protect and adapt coastal lowlands.

“Coastal lowland habitats are some of the most productive, yet susceptible resources along the Pacific Coast,” says Eric Stein, a principal scientist with SCCWRP. “Protecting and managing these resources in the face of climate change effects will require innovative approaches developed and implemented by integrative multidisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers and resource managers.  This project will allow us to explore new strategies from multiple perspectives and develop recommendations for future management.”

UCI civil engineer Amir AghaKouchak and social ecologist Richard Matthew are co-principal investigators on the grant.

UCI’s project is one of 10 that NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has funded totaling $10.44 million over the next five years to address sea level rise, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms (HABs).

-Lori Brandt