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Assessing Nature Based Solutions to Mitigate Flood Impacts and Enhance Resilience

This project began August 2022 and is projected to be completed in July 2024.

This research project will connect the National Water Model with coastal models to predict the performance of nature based solutions for reducing the flooding impacts of sea level rise and storm surge. 

Why We Care

In order to make informed decisions, communities need to know their flood risk, what can be done to reduce it, and how to maximize other coastal benefits. In particular, they need clear evaluations of policy changes, nature based solutions (NBS) and conventional flood protection approaches to inform what actions are most appropriate. Connecting the national water model with models capable of predicting coastal change and the performance of coastal management actions, would be transformative in understanding how coastlines are managed in the United States.

There is also significant value in this project taking place in Mobile Bay, AL. Mobile Bay is a shallow inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The region includes dense urban and extensive natural areas and has experienced devastating impacts from hurricanes. Over the past three decades, Mobile Bay has lost half of its emergent wetland habitat that is important to recreation and fisheries and possibly a buffer to coastal flooding. Despite the importance of wetlands and their crucial contribution to coastal resilience, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of the extent to which these nature-based features can contribute to reducing flooding impacts. This study will immediately inform infrastructure projects, natural resources management, and regional planning.

What We Are Doing

This project will develop a coupled modeling framework with the NextGen National Water Model, as a hydrologic modeling component that integrates processes across the watershed, coupled with a detailed estuarine hydrodynamic model, such as in D-FLOW FM, that routes processes along the tidal channel and well parametrized for biological components. Such a coupled model would help in accurate estimation of flooding dynamics under various Nature based solution scenarios. Throughout the project, the team will work closely with coastal decision makers to solicit planning and design ideas and then integrate their potential NBS, gray infrastructure, and policy decisions under future sea level rise and storm scenarios into the advanced models, with the aim to evaluate the performance of NBS in coastal flood risk reduction.

Benefits of Our Work

Decision makers will be able to use this tailored guidance to design and select projects and policies that reduce their flood risk, while maximizing the ecological and economical resilience of the coast. This work is currently focused in Mobile Bay, AL, but the methods and results will be transferable to other coastal communities, as the NWM is a national model.

The project is led by Dr. Hamed Moftakhari of the University of Alabama and includes co-investigators Dr. Julia Cherry, Dr. Nate Jones, Dr. Hamid Moradkhani, and Dr. Wanyun Shao at the University of Alabama; and Renee Collini with Mississippi State University and Mississippi-Alabama and Florida Sea Grant. The project is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH). The project will collaborate and leverage activities by AL DOT, County Managers, National Estuarine Research Reserves, and USACE Mobile District.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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