Assessing the environmental impacts of beach nourishment

American Institute of Biological Science
Publication Type:
Journal Article
BioScience, 2005, 55 (10), pp. 887 - 896
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With sea levels rising under global warming, dredge-and-fill rpograms are increasignly employed to protect coastal development from shoreline erosion. Such beach "nourishment" can bury shallow reefs and degrade other beach habitats, depressing nesting in sea turtles andreducing the densities of invertebrate prey for shorebirds, surf fish and crabs. Despite decades of agency-mandated monitoring at great expense, much uncertainty about the biological impacts of beach nourishment nonethless exists. A review of 46 beach monitoring studies show that 9a) nly 11% of the studies controlled for both natural spatial and temporal variation in their analyses, (b) 56% reached conclusions that were not adequately supported, and (c) 49% failed to meet publication standards for citation and synthesis of related work. Monitoring is typically conducted through project promoters, with no independent peer review, and the permitting agencies exhibit inadequate expertise to review biostatistical designs. Monitoring results are rarely used to scale mitigation to compensate for injured resources. Reform of agnecy practices is urgently needed as the risk of cumulative impacts grows.
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