Use of Natural and Nature-Based Features for Coastal Resilience

This US Army Corps of Engineers report describes different coastal resilience measures that can be implemented to reduce risks from flooding and erosion. It is designed to help policymakers use natural and nature-based features (NNBF) to enhance coastal resilience while minimizing impacts to the coastal environment. The report fills knowledge gaps about how NNBF can be used to reduce flooding and erosion risk and provides relevant information and studies to inform implementation of NNBF projects.

The coastal resilience measures explored in the report include:

  • Natural features include existing resources that are created and evolve over time through natural physical processes; and include reefs, barrier islands, dunes, beaches, wetlands, and maritime forests.
  • Nature-based features include engineered approaches that mimic natural features, but that may include some engineered features.
  • Non-structural approaches include land-use and other policy and regulatory approaches designed to minimize development in harm's way or to ensure that what is built is designed to be more resilient to flooding and erosion.
  • Structural approaches include engineered structures that are designed to reduce erosion and flood risk, such as seawalls and levees.  

A framework is provided for decision-makers to help develop and design NNBF projects based upon site-specific characteristics; the framework includes the following steps:

  1. Classifying, mapping and characterizing NNBF - this step walks decision-makers through how they can assess the suitability of different NNBF approaches can based upon the geomorphic characteristics of the site and the type of vegetation.
  2. Developing vulnerability metrics - the step provides guidance on how to assess the vulnerability of the site to erosion, storm surges, wind, and waves, both spatially and temporally, to determine the site's exposure and sensitivity to hazards.
  3. Development performance metrics - this step helps decisionmakers evaluate the benefits and services that can be provided by different NNBF approaches and it provides metrics for 21 ecosystem-based services and 72 qualitative metrics for assessing social, environmental, and economic benefits across 30 NNBF approaches. 
  4. Assessing and ranking proposed alternatives - this step provides an evaluation framework for analyzing the expected performance of NNBF and the services that would be delivered by a project to help decisionmakers weigh tradeoffs and prioritize different approaches.  
  5. Considering sediment and resource for NNBF - this step helps decisionmakers assess approaches for using regional sediment management to maintain sites with dredged sediments and a case study from Long Island Sound is presented.
  6. Monitoring and assessing NNBF to support adaptive management - this step provides metrics for monitoring the performance and ecosystem goods and services delivered by specific projects to inform long-term management of NNBF projects.
  7. Considering policy challenges and implications - this step discusses policy challenges at federal, state and local levels and opportunities for reducing challenges across different categories including science, engineering and technology; leadership and coordination; and communication and outreach.

Case studies of different projects are explored throughout the report including case studies of regional sediment management in Long Island Sound, and case studies about adaptive management and performance of NNBF projects implemented after Hurricane Sandy in Jamaica Bay, New York; Cape May Meadows, New Jersey; and Cape Charles, Virginia.


If you have any trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page. You may find this has limited use. 

Publication Date: January 2015

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  • Best practice
  • Indicators


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