Restoring barrier islands for coastal protection
Barrier islands—narrow deposits of sand that form along the coast—help protect mainland coastal communities from storms and serve as important habitats for many species. Restoring or enhancing barrier islands can build coastal resilience to the effects of storms and protect important habitats that sustain coastal economies. Sediment management (e.g., dredging) can be done as a nature-based solution, if it is designed appropriately, and dredge materials are used to restore or enhance habitat near at-risk communities. A new study conducted by the USGS and FWS provides resource managers—including USACE and BOEM—with valuable information they can use to anticipate and evaluate impacts of sediment removal and placement within barrier islands (Miselis et al., 2021), and potentially increase the instances where sediment management creates both environmental and social benefits and reduces tradeoffs. The report identifies both beneficial and detrimental impacts from sediment management practices depending on where and how they are applied within barrier island systems, as well as knowledge gaps that can help prioritize future federal research, modeling, and monitoring efforts.