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Georgia Climate Project: Using natural resources to protect infrastructure

This week’s question from the Georgia Climate Project’s Roadmap focuses on how we can leverage natural systems to help protect Georgia’s coastline and important infrastructure.  For example, by rebuilding natural wetlands we may be able to protect against some of the likely increased flooding scientists expect us to experience in the future.  Maintaining the string of barrier islands will help protect the marshes from damage due to sea level rise and storm surges. Remember, you can see all the Roadmap questions at http://roadmap.georgiaclimateproject.org/.

18. How can the environment help Georgia adapt to climate change?

Why this question is important: Ecosystem processes are critical to sustaining our communities and adapting to a changing climate (Kabisch et al. 2016). For example, green infrastructure has been shown to be a cost-effective approach for increasing climate resilience in both urban and undeveloped areas (Opperman 2014). Atlanta has adopted some infrastructure innovations (www.atla ntawatershed.org/greeninfrastructure) but research is needed to identify how other cities and municipalities can use nature to not just efficiently increase resilience to various stressors. Coastal protection is another example where the effectiveness and value of coastal protection has been assessed for other regions (Narayan et al. 2016; Ruckelshaus et al. 2016). Georgia’s coast encompasses a series of barrier island complexes and salt marshes that protect the coastline from storm surges and wave action. These coastal ecosystems are threatened by rapid growth of coastal communities (Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant 2017). Improved understanding of the coastal resources and the ecosystems services in Georgia and the Southeast is needed to identify cost-effective green infrastructure approaches to adapt to a changing climate.