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Story by Sean Turner

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Protecting ecosystems or protecting our communities is not an “either-or” scenario. Both are possible using natural infrastructure in place of and alongside gray infrastructure. Natural infrastructure is capable of protecting our coastal communities from floods as well as increasing biodiversity on our shorelines.

Network for Engineering With Nature member, Dr. Burton Suedel, teamed up with engineers and architects from UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a natural infrastructure approach to developing structures that are resilient.

In a scholarly article published in the Journal of Environmental Management, the authors divided their approach into five phases: Scoping, Planning, Decision-Making, Implementation, and Operations. Each phase reveals information in a sequential and organized way intended to limit the risk and uncertainty that comes with building in a new way.

Their ultimate goal is to implement structures that protect our coastal communities while enhancing biodiversity.

One big takeaway from this approach is that it is not a single-handed job. Many environmentalists, architects, engineers, and government officials are working together to find more nature-based solutions. “Effective communications both internally within the project team and externally with stakeholders are imperative so that the approach can be successfully applied elsewhere,” Suedel stated in the article, speaking to the interdisciplinary nature of working on natural infrastructure projects.

With the rise of climate change and a societal desire to better understand our natural environments, this research aims to benefit both our communities and our ecosystems.

Read the full article here.


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