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Guiding an Effort to Establish Natural Infrastructure Metrics on Shoreline Protection Approaches

In recent years, interest has increased in using natural and nature-based infrastructure to create more resilient coastal ecosystems and communities. In the aftermath of coastal storms, anecdotal evidence indicates that healthy ecosystems – such as beach and dune systems or barrier islands – provided some degree of protection to coastal communities.

However, we lack quantitative evidence at many sites. These shoreline protection approaches are being explored and rapidly implemented by many federal, local, and state agencies as well as non-governmental organizations, with the dual goals of protecting human communities and providing ecosystem goods and services.

To evaluate the efficacy of such efforts and guide implementation, we need metrics to quantify how natural infrastructure approaches perform in terms of provisioning habitat and key ecosystem services to coastal communities, such as wave attenuation, water quality, and flood protection.

Recognizing this gap, representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and numerous state, local and non-governmental organizations established the National Infrastructure Metrics Workgroup (NIMS), part of the SAGE community of practice.

Abt Associates is helping to lead this NIMS effort to develop a standardized suite of metrics that can be used to assess the effectiveness of natural and nature-based infrastructure.
North America