Troy University professors receive NOAA RESTORE Science Program grant

Living shorelines, like the one near Bayfront Park, are the focus of a NOAA RESTORE grant received by  Dr. Chris Boyd and Dr. Xutong Niu.

Living shorelines, like the one near Bayfront Park, are the focus of a NOAA RESTORE grant received by Dr. Chris Boyd and Dr. Xutong Niu.

Troy University researchers have been awarded a two-year, $519,853 grant from the NOAA RESTORE Science Program that will identify where living shorelines are the most appropriate erosion control solution to protect tidal shorelines at various sites along the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Chris Boyd of TROY’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences is the lead investigator on the project, while Dr. Xutong Niu from the Department of Mathematics and Geomatics is among the co-investigators. The project, “Living Shoreline Site Suitability Model Transfer for Selected Water Bodies within the Gulf of Mexico: A GIS and Remote Sensing-Based Approach,” will customize an existing living shoreline suitability model developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences to work in Perdido Bay/Wolf Bay/Ono Island complex in coastal Alabama, Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana and Galveston Bay, Texas. In addition, an interactive decision support tool will be created for these areas, as well as Tampa Bay, Florida where a similar Living Shorelines Suitability Model is currently being developed.

Dr. Chris Boyd

According to Dr. Boyd, the decision support tool will allow the user to further enhance segments of shoreline identified by the model by using an interactive Q&A interface which would return a series of shoreline best management practices and options for implementation, but at a much finer geographical resolution.

Living shorelines are an infrastructure technique that makes use of native vegetation alone or in combination with off-shore structures to stabilize shorelines, providing a natural alternative to the use of stone or bulkheads. The use of living shorelines provide numerous benefits including erosion control, reduction of pollution, providing essential fish habitats and providing a natural buffer to protect shorelines from waves and storms.

“Coastal water front property throughout the U.S. is typically built on eroding shorelines,” Dr. Boyd said. “In order to combat erosion traditionally homeowners have installed hard structures such as bulkheads and revetment. As of 2014, Mobile Bay is 38 percent armored using predominantly hard structures. This has led to a loss of coastal wetlands and bottom habitat needed by aquatic nursery species. Over 90 percent of commercial fisheries are estuary dependent. Installing living shorelines is considered a more environmentally friendly option because, when designed correctly, they maintain coastal processes without impacting wetlands.”

Dr. Xutong Niu

The application of this model and tool to other water bodies within the Gulf of Mexico region will help promote living shoreline protection options to federal and state agencies, homeowners, marine contractors, natural resource managers and city planners. The project team will conduct a series of workshops to assure the model and tool reaches decision makers in order to ensure its use throughout the Gulf region.

Other co-investigators on the project include Stephen Jones of the Geological Survey of Alabama, Lee Anne Wilde of the Galveston Bay Foundation and Marcia R. Berman of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The project is one of 15 focusing on living coastal and marine resources and their habitats in the Gulf of Mexico to be awarded funding from the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. In total, $16.7 million in funding was awarded. The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program supports the science and coordination necessary for a better understanding and management of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in an effort to provide healthy, diverse, sustainable and resilient estuarine, coastal and marine habitats and living resources, as well as resilient and adaptive coastal communities.