2010-2011 Focus: Coastal Erosion
Erosion is a pervasive threat to property and the economic vitality of North Carolina, sparking vigorous debates on policy, mitigation, and adaptation. Nonetheless, there are significant gaps in understanding coastal erosion processes across extensive and diverse coastal environments and limited amounts of integrated observations and useful models to address the issue. Coastal residents, public officials, and managers are hampered in comprehending the past, present, and future risks of shoreline erosion and current policies for shoreline stabilization and replenishment in estuarine and oceanfront areas are contentious in many communities.
ECU scientists are actively collaborating with county, state and federal agencies to examine shoreline movements and their effects and provide solutions to coastal residents and government officials. However, focused research and engagement efforts are needed to integrate the breadth of research, to examine some knowledge deficiencies and to integrate insights with social and economic concerns. By addressing this problem, the RENCI at ECU team takes a spatially integrated approach to the study with our multidisciplinary faculty, cadre of graduate students, and expanding array of observing systems, geospatial technology, and visualization capabilities to link natural and social science research.
Erosion is a difficult problem along the estuarine and ocean coast of North Carolina. Many communities have responded to the loss of property by stabilizing the shoreline with a variety of structures and techniques. However, the lack of a complete understanding of the erosion process in different areas and under different conditions has made developing policies difficult. In addition, the effect of erosion on the ecology and economics of our coastal communities is well understood. Two projects, one focused on the estuarine shoreline and another focused on the beachfront are described below.
Erosion in North Carolina from Bays to Beaches
Project Team: J. P. Walsh, Reide Corbett, Devon Eulie, Tom Allen
The RENCI at ECU team is investigating and integrating observations of estuarine and ocean shoreline change. Initiatives being undertaken include:
• Examining spatial and temporal variability in estuarine shoreline erosion,
• Utilizing a vast existing dataset on ocean shorelines, statistical trends are analyzed for modeling purposes.
• Three-dimensional landscape and seascape dynamics are being examined using a suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation at ECU to document and understand changes comprehensively (e.g., patterns of erosion and accretion and how barrier islands are being reshaped or moved?).
• Collecting, integrating, and analyzing estuarine and oceanfront data at a series of discrete sites across northeastern North Carolina, from river mouths to Outer Banks beaches. The integrated erosion and developed visualization models provide for communication with the public and participation with RENCI visualization science and disaster/environmental initiatives.
• Evaluating state-of-the-art terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to better understand erosion processes and sensitivity to weather events
• Improving our understanding and methodology for conveying uncertainty and its propagation in erosion models.
Division of Coastal Management (DCM)
Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program (APNEP)
UNC Coastal Studies Institute
US Army Corps of Engineers Duck Field Research Facility (USACE FRF) NC Sea Grant
Drs. Thad Wasklewicz and Paul Gares (ECU)
Devon Eulie a research associate with RENCI@ECU discusses her research on coastal shoreline erosion.
Michelle Covi, Outreach Coordinator
J.A. Dawson, Communications Assistant