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Maintaining Tropical Beaches with Seagrass and Algae: A Promising Alternative to Engineering Solutions

James, R. K. et al. | BioScience | 2019
https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy154

Abstract

Tropical beaches provide coastal flood protection, income from tourism, and habitat for flagship species. They urgently need protection from erosion, which is being exacerbated by changing climate and coastal development. Traditional coastal engineering solutions are expensive, provide unstable temporary solutions, and often disrupt natural sediment transport. Instead, natural foreshore stabilization and nourishment may provide a sustainable and resilient long-term solution. Field flume and ecosystem process measurements, along with data from the literature, show that sediment stabilization by seagrass in combination with sediment-producing calcifying algae in the foreshore form an effective mechanism for maintaining tropical beaches worldwide. The long-term efficacy of this type of nature-based beach management is shown at a large scale by comparing vegetated and unvegetated coastal profiles. We argue that preserving and restoring vegetated beach foreshore ecosystems offers a viable, self-sustaining alternative to traditional engineering solutions, increasing the resilience of coastal areas to climate change.