Improving the Enabling Environments for Ecosystem-Based Coastal Restoration and Protection Through the Use of Ecological Modeling: Case Studies from the Mississippi River Delta and the Coastal Netherlands
MetadataShow full item record
The Coastal Netherlands and U.S. Mississippi River Delta in Coastal Louisiana share a unique feature: both areas are low-lying river deltas, threatened by some of the highest land subsidence and eustatic sea-level rise rates in the world. The regions are at-risk from land loss, flooding, and storm surge and in need of coastal protection and restoration measures with an ecological component for long-term sustainability. The best policy and decision-making should be informed by best available science and knowledge; however, this science may not advance at the same rate as policy setting. Modeling can be used for taking limited knowledge and extending it into enhanced current understanding as well as future predictions, making it a useful tool for this type of management and decision-making. An enabling environment is a policy and decision-making framework for implementing management actions. In the past, a surplus of physical models influenced enabling environments for hard engineering solutions to coastal problems, known as “gray infrastructure,” including the levee/dyke systems. These engineered solutions can be ecologically harmful, costly to maintain, and are unsustainable in a changing world. Newer solutions may emphasize the use of ecosystem-based restoration and protection, coastal solutions that work with nature to develop results, but more modeling is needed to enhance these options. While ecological modeling currently exists in each location, and the need for further modeling studies is considered, there is an absence of current literature on whether the modeling is and should be absorbed to effect change, and if so, how. These two locations will be compared to provide results that may demonstrate coastal ecological modeling benefits to a policy realm. This is particularly important to evaluate as the northern Gulf Coast is critically threatened by land loss, and both areas face growing threats from rising sea levels, so receiving landscape-scale restoration effort, utilizing that effort, and funding for most effective outcomes requires first-rate decision-making and management. Restoration approaches that enhance sustainable ecosystems and communities while reducing community vulnerability and risk, such as soft, nature-based or green infrastructure measures of management, referred to throughout this paper as ecosystem-based restoration (EBR), can support these multiple goals. By researching the ways in which ecological modeling can help frame policy for ecosystem-based restoration, this study can help to enact that positive change and possibly contribute to ways to do so in the future. As such, it is important to think about the governance framework in each location as relates to coastal policy; uncover blockages that exist in implementing ecosystem-based restoration; find ways to improve its enabling environment; and finally to use this information to think about how new forms of ecological modeling can be applied. The study will investigate whether an increased use and understanding of coastal ecological modeling, versus a sole focus on coastal protection modeling, can help allow development of policy to enhance the enabling environments for ecosystem-based coastal restoration in the Netherlands and Mississippi River Delta.