Developing a Shoreline Restoration Suitability Model for North Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon, Phase II

Abstract

This project successfully created a living shoreline restoration prioritization model and a mangrove hydrodynamic habitat suitability model for 180 miles of estuarine shorelines in Mosquito Lagoon and northern Indian River. Shoreline model data are available for direct download as a spatial dataset (https://stars.library.ucf.edu/shorelines/), or for online viewing in a GIS storymap: (https://ucfonline.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=45caa29e80e6441c8bf6f75c542860af). New empirical wave data were created through hydrodynamic modeling. Frequency analysis was applied to characterize wave climate in study area shorelines. Wind-wave measurements observed in the field validated that actual wave heights above 2 cm were well represented by the model. Modelled hydrodynamic data were combined with shoreline data (collected in the field during the project Phase I) to develop fundamental knowledge regarding hydrodynamic habitat suitability of IRL shoreline species. Through this analysis, strong relationships between mangrove presence and wind wave hydrodynamics were illuminated, such that the probability of mangrove persistence was predicted at the project site scale based on wave climate. Additionally, the influential role of site intertidal slope and its interaction with site hydrodynamics was confirmed. This is a transformative source of information from the perspective of Planning, Design and Engineering (PD&E) of shoreline stabilization projects and regional-scale restoration planning. Mangroves were found on shorelines with overall lower incoming wave height distributions as compared to shorelines without mangrove vegetation. Mangrove presence became less likely as wave height increased, suggesting that there is a critical wave magnitude-frequency combination above which it is increasingly unlikely that mangrove vegetation will persist. Where wave heights exceeded 5 cm 20% of time, there was over an 80% chance of mangrove persistence. Where wave heights were 8 cm 20% of time, chance of mangrove persistence dropped to 50%. Where wave heights were over 15 cm 20% of time, there was less than 10% chance of mangrove persistence. While wave climate was found to explain the greatest variance within a generalized linear model of mangrove distribution, the influence of shoreline slope was also found to be significant. Low shoreline intertidal slopes were found to increase the threshold wave climate mangroves can survive. For example, the 80th percentile wave height associated with 50% probability of mangrove survival was 8 cm when slope was 0.2, increased to 9 cm when slope was lower than 0.2, and decreased to 4 cm when slope was greater. The presence of oysters or seagrasses at the shoreline were also correlated with wave height; however, conditions within the project area were insufficient to create robust hydrodynamic habitat thresholds for these important coastal ecosystem engineers. There are therefore future research opportunities to apply frameworks developed herein to broader study areas, which will potentially lead to discovery of flow-ecology relationships for a more diverse suite of coastal ecosystem engineers. All study shorelines were classified within a prioritization model according to need and urgency of stabilization. Shoreline sites classified in Urgent need (18% of study shoreline) should be triaged for immediate stabilization. Shoreline sites classified as Priority (10% of study shoreline) will eventually move to the Urgent category without intervention. Shorelines classified as Vulnerable (6% of study shorelines) are sites for pre-emptive restoration. Sites within the Wetland category (38% of study shorelines) do not need to be restored at this time and can serve as reference sites for living shoreline stabilization. Shorelines with hard armoring (28% of study shorelines) may represent opportunities to increase long-term shoreline resilience or restore shoreline ecotone functionality. Analysis of Hardened shorelines in context of local wave climate and slope indicate that many hardened shorelines in the project study area may not actually require armoring. Living shoreline containing mangrove forest could be expected to stabilize many currently hardened shorelines. All study shorelines were classified according to likelihood of mangrove persistence based on hydrodynamic habitat suitability. Within the study area, 68% of the shoreline was characterized by 50% or greater probability of mangrove persistence. At the site scale, likelihood of mangrove persistence can also be increased by design of an equilibrium shoreline slope, adding elasticity to stabilization site designs in areas that are on the borderline of mangrove hydrodynamic habitat suitability. Severe erosion was three times more likely to be observed on shorelines without mangrove vegetation, where over 60% of sites had escarpment heights greater than 30 cm. Similarly, shorelines with mangrove were more than two times as likely to be characterized by no to low levels of erosion. Managers and practitioners within and outside of the direct project area can benefit from this work. First, the actual hydrodynamic habitat thresholds for mangrove discovered in this study can be transferred to other locations within and outside of the Indian River Lagoon system. Locations throughout Florida that fit within the mangrove temperature, salinity and hydrology habitat zones may apply the hydrodynamic habitat knowledge developed herein to site-scale project planning. Second, the synergy between regional-scale project prioritization data and site-scale habitat suitability design tools demonstrated in this project can be a framework for future restoration planning efforts. Provision of information both at a broad geographic scale for use in regional planning, and making the information sufficiently detailed such that it can be applied at the site scale can help managers and practitioners understand when and where restoration is needed, and also the appropriateness of nature-based or green-grey hybrid designs on a site-by-site basis. Widespread investment in this type of information, and dedicated strategies to adopt such information in project PD&E may increase restoration success and impact on a regional scale

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