Climate Change

Coastal Communities Strike Back Against Erosion

February 8, 2017

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“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.”

The beach is disappearing in Grenville, Grenada and many coastal communities around the world face a similar situation. As sea level rises, the waters cover reefs that were once tall enough to block some of the wave energy, protecting the shore from erosion. Between the rising water and the waves pounding the shore at full force, sands wash away and even coastal plants like mangroves can be killed as the soil disappears from under them.

The people of Grenville, with the help of the Nature Conservancy and partner organizations, are fighting back.

“What’s really been fun is to watch a very diverse group of people come together … to first envision a resilient future for Grenville,” says Vera Agostini, Director of Science & Conservation for the Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Division, “then design a set of actions that would help the community be less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and begin to implement some of those actions.”

Pilot hybrid or 'artificial' reef structures, built with steel cages and filled with stones and cement, were installed in 2015 in Grenville Bay, Grenada to protect a vulnerable coastline from strong wave action and the impacts from climate change, such as severe erosion. Photo © Tim Calver
Pilot hybrid or ‘artificial’ reef structures, built with steel cages and filled with stones and cement, were installed in 2015 in Grenville Bay, Grenada to protect a vulnerable coastline from strong wave action and the impacts from climate change, such as severe erosion. Photo © Tim Calver

The solutions that they have come up with are bringing back the beach and much more. The artificial reef they have designed can block wave energy, withstand hurricane forces, and it makes an attractive habitat for fish and other sea creatures that are important to people’s livelihoods. They have also planted new mangroves, which will not only help to keep more soil on the beach, they will also store carbon, mitigating the future impacts of climate change.

The artificial reef, the restored beach, and the mangroves will also act as a barrier during storms – protecting people during natural disasters.

Lisa Feldkamp

Lisa Feldkamp is the senior coordinator for new science audiences. She loves all things citizen science and enjoys learning about everything that goes on four legs, two wings or fins. She has a PhD in Classical Literature and Languages from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and enjoys reading Greek and Roman literature or talking about mythology in her spare time. More from Lisa

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