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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R024537/2
Title: Newton Fund: Applying nature-based coastal defence to the world's largest urban area - from science to practice
Principal Investigator: Wolf, Dr J
Other Investigators:
Jevrejeva, Dr S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ABP Marine Env Research Ltd (AMPmer) CH2M HILL
Department: Science and Technology
Organisation: National Oceanography Centre
Scheme: Newton Fund
Starts: 01 November 2019 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 88,530
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Coastal & Waterway Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Water
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Project Summary:

Nature-based coastal defence solutions have increasingly been recognized as more sustainable alternatives to conventional hard engineering approaches against climate change. These include using wetlands, mangroves, coral and oyster reefs as a buffer zone, which can attenuate waves and, in a regime of moderate sea level rise, the sediment trapping in such zones can keep pace with sea level. Wetlands and mangroves are regions in which more salt-tolerant species exist, which can protect freshwater species behind them. Nature-based defences have been deployed in the USA, Netherlands and UK and also in some parts of China, with varying degrees of success. In deltas undergoing fast urbanisation, applying nature-based solutions can lead to competition for space with other land uses, e.g.

land-reclamation. For optimised management, the question of how much space is required by nature-based solutions must be addressed. However, our current knowledge of the size-dependent defence-value and resilience of different ecosystems is insufficient. Additionally, we lack full understanding of the methods needed for ecosystem creation for coastal defence, as previous restoration efforts have suffered low success rates.

The current proposal aims to develop process-based understanding and predictive models of ecosystem size requirements and how to create ecosystems for coastal defence, using the world's largest urban area, the Pearl River Delta (PRD) in China, as a model system. Delta-scale mangrove area monitoring and hydrodynamic modelling will be conducted to study recent wetland area changes and estimate the optimisation of ecosystem spaces for defence, under contrasting scenarios of climate change and land-reclamation. This large-scaled study will also provide underpinning boundary conditions for local-scale experiments and modelling. A set of experiments using novel instruments will be conducted to improve our insights into the processes influencing mangrove resilience and propagation. Innovative measures of using dredged materials and oyster reefs to facilitate mangrove establishment will also be tested experimentally. Local-scale models will incorporate the new experimental knowledge to predict mangrove bio-geomorphic dynamics and provide guidelines for management.

The developed models and knowledge will be directly applied in the design of a pilot eco-dike project due to be constructed, in collaboration with our project partners. We will consider how to address resilient urban planning and management, in terms of combining spatial planning and disaster management by optimising land use, institutions and mechanisms for more sustainable urbanisation, exploring eco-dynamic design options to provide opportunities for nature as part of the urban development processes.

Summary of the UK applicants' contribution to the project:

The UK applicants will lead Work Task 1: Wetland area monitoring/hydrodynamic modelling. This work task will provide an over-view of the bio-physical conditions, including the morphological and land-use aspects of the PRD and its regional setting, for the present day, and under future climate projections of sea level and storms.

The UK team will implement a high resolution unstructured-grid model (FVCOM) for the Pearl River Delta (PRD) for hydrodynamics, waves and sediment transport which will provide the interface between the larger scale atmospheric and oceanic boundary conditions and the smaller-scale process studies and ecosystem modelling to be carried out by our Dutch and Chinese partners. This model, together with regional sea level projections, will be used to provide quantitative scenarios for the local area ecological modelling.
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