journal article

Evaluation of seagrass as a nature-based solution for coastal protection in the German Wadden Sea


Global climate change increases the overall risks for coastal flooding and erosion. Meanwhile, nature-based solutions (NbS) are increasingly becoming a focus of coastal protection measures to improve the climate adaptability. In this study, the present and potential future role of seagrass in coastal risk reduction strategies were explored for the highly energetic Wadden Sea area of the German Bight. The methodology in this study combined seagrass coverage data (Zostera marina and Zostera noltei) obtained by field surveys and what-if scenario simulations using the SCHISM unstructured grid model framework, coupling hydrodynamics, waves, sediments, and a seagrass module. The results suggest that the introduction of seagrass meadows locally can reduce both current velocities and significant wave heights in the order of up to 30 in the deeper areas and above 90 in the shallow areas. Reduction in bottom shear stress of a similar relative magnitude significantly reduced sediment mobilisation on the order of 2 g/L in the 95th quantile of bottom layer sediment concentrations. Effectively altering hydromorphodynamic conditions favouring sediment accumulation, seagrass expansion could help tidal flats height growths to keep up with SLR, thus further maintaining the bathymetry-induced tidal dampening and lowering flooding and erosion risks as well the amount of energy at dike infrastructure. The accumulated effect of seagrass under calm weather conditions is considered more important than the increased attenuation in absolute values it provides during extreme conditions. The overall conclusion is that seagrass expansion could be a useful addition to engineered coastal protection measures.
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