NWF Report: Green Works for Climate Resilience

green-works-cover_150x194Cities are on the frontlines of climate change impacts, such as sea-level rise and coastal flooding, drought, and extreme weather. Along the United States coasts, communities are lining their shorelines with grasses, oyster reefs, boulders, and sand dunes. What sound like the components of an extravagant sandcastle are actually the key features of a living shoreline – a technique using natural and structural tools to control coastal erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and protect water quality.

NWF’s new report “Green Works for Climate Resilience: A Community Guide to Climate Planning” is a primer on nature-based approaches that communities can use to respond and prepare for the impacts of climate change. It highlights common examples, profiles approaches that communities are already using, and describes strategies that communities can use to apply nature-based approaches.

Using Green Infrastructure

A living shoreline is just one example of a nature-based “green’ infrastructure approach. “Green” infrastructure refers to approaches that rely on enhancing, protecting, and restoring natural infrastructure, such as coastal wetlands, parks, and tree canopies. It restores the important functions of systems that aren’t manmade, for example, restoring a degraded coastal wetland so it can properly prevent coastal flooding like it originally did before human development. “Green” infrastructure can also refer to features that mimic natural processes, such as a rain garden or a green roof, which slow infiltration of stormwater and reduce flooding. These structures are man-made, but they model the functions of natural infrastructure and are less damaging than hard infrastructure.

Green Roof in Chicago, IL Photo: Charlie Vinz
Green Roof in Chicago, IL Photo: Charlie Vinz
While large-scale engineering projects such as seawalls, an example of “grey” infrastructure, may seem like simple, attractive methods of improving coastal resilience, incorporating “green” infrastructure in combination with “grey” infrastructure will prove more cost-effective and is less likely to fail in the event of an extreme storm.

Below are some examples from Green Works for Climate Resilience that highlight some of the ways in which communities have already started using nature-based approaches.

  • In Broward County, FL, cities are restoring and replanting historical mangrove forests to anchor shoreline and act as buffers against storm surge at the recommendation of the county’s climate action plan.
  • On Kaua’l, the fourth largest island in Hawaii, the county government used a combination of set distances and erosion rates to determine the distance a development project must be from the coast.
  • New York City has begun updating zoning codes to encourage the use of reflective roofs and greenroofs that mitigate the UHIE. While painting rooftops white is a valid measure to reduce urban heat, the nature-based approach of green rooftops also manages stormwater and provides habitat for urban wildlife
  • The City of Seattle offers incentives to homeowners using green stormwater infrastructure, but also requires new projects to implement green infrastructure to the maximum extent feasible. GI is constrained only by physical limitations of a site, practical considerations, and considerations of financial costs and environmental impacts

To learn more about the use of nature-based approaches to climate resilience, check out Green Works for Climate Resilience.

How are you working with nature to prepare for climate change?

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Published: June 27, 2014