Research overview

The Resilient Shorelines research programme is contributing to the development of strategies for natural resource management and adaptation to climate change.

Assessing the recovery and vulnerability of shoreline ecosystems at low-lying estuarine rivermouths
The Resilient Shorelines study is evaluating the recovery of shoreline ecosystems following the Canterbury earthquakes and identifying similarities and transferable learning to address the potential impacts of sea level rise. The focus is on coastal rivermouths where there are a complex set of considerations.

These low-lying areas may be especially vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change. Due to the popularity of the coast and waterways, there are often many values to be managed. As well as being a boundary zone between land and water, and fresh and saltwater systems, rivermouths and estuaries are incredibly popular for people. They also straddle jurisdictional boundaries and this requires a high level of integration between the organisations responsible for their management. In these situations resource management and decision making can be especially difficult. Strategic planning will be increasingly important and can be supported by methodologies to evaluate  outcomes under different management scenarios. Applying a risk-based approach is also a useful to address the uncertainty inherent in predictions of future change.

The research approach makes use of case studies to investigate the needs of shoreline ecosystems. A significant component of the study involves methodological development to support ecosystem-based research on our selected case studies. We are also actively pursuing collaborative projects with research partners as well as utilising participatory research methodologies. Together, these aspects will contribute valuable concepts towards the goal of maintaining healthy and resilient shorelines.

An ecosystems perspective on natural disaster recovery and adaptation to climate change
Urgent action is already needed to halt the degradation of biodiversity and natural resources supported by natural features such as beaches, rivermouths, and floodplains. In addition, many coastal waterways are exposed to natural disaster events and the effects of climate change. To be effective in a changing world, environmental management must incorporate resilience to natural disturbance events as well as the incremental effects of climate change. This is encapsulated within the notions of natural disaster recovery, risk reduction, and climate change adaptation.The overarching goal is to identify actions that can prevent losses and are also achievable in a given situation.

Developing approaches that seek and enable synergies between the needs of nature and people are one of promising and proactive directions we can take within the context of integrated management. This so-called 'ecosystem approach' provides a practical avenue to help improve the long term resilience of natural environments. It will become increasingly important for effective policy and planning arrangements in a fast changing world.

The Resilient Shorelines study has benefited from the supported of many research partners, funders, colleagues and volunteers. Thanks to everyone who has been involved!

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