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Enhancing Coastal Resilience through Ecosystem Restoration: A One-Day Workshop

Rising sea levels are increasingly threatening the coastline of Southeast Florida, exacerbating the impacts of waves, flooding and storm surge. These effects can cause property damage, weaken infrastructure, and erode beaches, costing citizens and municipalities millions of dollars.

Local coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves have the potential to reduce these impacts, but their benefits have not been well quantified. As a result, the importance of these ecosystems is often undervalued. To help address this issue, the University of Miami, in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy, organized a one-day workshop on “Enhancing Coastal Resilience through Ecosystem Restoration.”

The workshop, which took place at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, is part of a multidisciplinary research project funded by the University of Miami’s Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK), a university-wide platform for incubating ideas, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and facilitating new approaches to difficult problems.

The research project, titled “Engineering coastal resilience through reef restoration,” aims at identifying knowledge and data gaps, as well as at developing a targeted research plan exploring how green infrastructure (e.g., mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs) decreases the impacts and risks coastal communities face.

“The purpose of the workshop was to learn about the State-of-the-Science applications of coastal ecosystem restoration to enhance coastal resilience in order to develop a research strategy with a focus a focus on Southeast Florida and particularly Miami-Dade county” says Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering who is spearheading engineering aspect for the research project.

The workshop included a panel of short presentations by leading experts, as well as local and regional government representatives including Dr. Michael Beck, lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy and an adjunct professor in ocean sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz; Roy Coley, director of public works – City of Miami Beach; Thomas Ruppert, coastal planning specialist with Florida Sea Grant; and Elizabeth “Betsy” Wheaton, environment & sustainability director – City of Miami Beach. Presentations were followed by an interactive Q&A session where attendees were encouraged to participate and provide their own thoughts and ideas about the research project.

“By bringing together a community of experts from distinct disciplines with local and regional government representatives, we are fostering novel and exciting ideas that can help the Southeast Florida community face the challenges that accompany rising sea levels,” says Rhode-Barbarigos. “It is imperative that we find solutions that are not only sustainable, but also economically and ecologically sound.”

The event was supported by U-LINK, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Florida Sea Grant, and the Nature Conservancy.

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