The National Science Foundation has awarded a $20 million grant to a USF-lead team
of researchers to develop a standardized approach to the protection and replenishment
of coral reef and mangrove ecosystems, which serve as a barrier in protecting our
Led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Maya Trotz, the team includes
USF experts in environmental engineering, anthropology and marine science, as well
as collaborators from six academic institutions. They’re working to develop scalable
and equitable engineering practices to enhance coastal sustainability by combining
natural features, such as coral reefs and mangrove forests, with built infrastructure,
such as seawalls and floodwater pumps, to promote resilience to waves, storm surges
and sea-level rise – threats that can cause property damage, erosion and loss of life.
The U.S. Coral Reef Conservation Act promotes the study, management, protection and
restoration of coral reefs. Similar acts in Florida apply to mangroves. Work on reef
and mangrove restoration continues to grow in the U.S. and across the globe.
“Coral reefs and mangroves protect coastal communities, provide numerous ecosystem
services and support local livelihoods. By working with communities to better understand
and value these ecosystems, we will develop more equitable approaches to protecting
and restoring them,” Trotz said. “Not only will this project address the environmental
questions of our time, it will also provide advice on how ordinary people everywhere
can participate in finding solutions to our coastal crisis.”
The research aims to quantify the social and ecological factors required to develop
effective policy changes and advance public and private investment in disaster risk
prevention and reduction.
With its low-lying topography and coral reef and mangrove habitat, the research team
will focus on the Biscayne Bay region in Miami, which is one of the most highly susceptible
areas to climate and weather disasters, as well as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Complex
in Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The project is part of the National Science Foundation’s Coastlines and People Hubs for Research and Broadening
Participation program. The research team includes experts from Boston University, Stanford University,
University of Miami, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Virgin Islands
and East Carolina University.
They’re also working with the World Wildlife Fund, an international organization that
works to reduce human impact on natural environments; Fragments of Hope Ltd., which
has been pioneering scalable coral reef restoration in Belize; and Black in Marine
Science, which seeks to broaden participation in the marine science field.
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