Building Climate Change-Resilient Seashores
Published November 10, 2016
Not long after Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Virginia Beach last month, the National Aquarium hosted our annual community restoration event to strengthen coastal sand dunes as a frontline defense in the face of climate change.
Spanning over 1,100 acres of highlands, marshes, coastal beaches and sand dunes located just 5 miles south of the Virginia Beach resort area, the Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex’s (NASO DNA) mission is to attain the highest level of fleet readiness. This mission is closely tied to the stability of beach and dune lands. Coastal sand dunes have the ability to absorb stress from wave energy and shift or “adapt” over time, which makes the shoreline more resilient to climate change impacts. Without the natural protection that the sand dunes provide, the Naval base and surrounding community areas would be much more vulnerable to erosion, flooding and other threats associated with climate change, jeopardizing their ability to support national security objectives.
The National Aquarium has worked at NASO DNA over the last nine years, engaging military personnel, staff from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and community volunteers to strengthen sand dunes as a frontline defense from climate change impacts. Volunteers and partners restore coastal ecosystems along the three-mile stretch, reinforcing dunes by installing fencing to promote rapid sand accumulation and by planting vegetation native to the mid-Atlantic region to secure that sand in place.
Thanks to funding provided by the Department of Defense and National Public Lands Day, the National Aquarium recently hosted this year’s four-day community restoration event, during which 32,300 grasses and shrubs were planted along the dunes. Since 2007, 934 volunteers have contributed to this project by planting a combined total of 364,744 grasses and shrubs.
The 2016 event was made more special because planting included seed from the area’s native sea oat (Uniola piniculata), collected two years ago during the 2014 restoration event, and grown over two years by Pinelands Nursery in Columbus, NJ. We are honored to work with partners and volunteers along the Eastern seaboard to increase coastal resiliency to climate change.
Want to do your part to help protect our coastal habitats? Learn more about our conservation programs here.