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Environmental Science

Coastal habitats capture more carbon than forests, protect us against rising seas and storms, and provide livelihoods to millions. More than half the world’s population lives near coasts and rivers, calling these habitats home. Yet around the world they are on the decline.

On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, researchers from UVA and six other institutions are pushing the limits of what science can do. “This is a perfect place for understanding the resilience of these environments,” says Professor Karen McGlathery.

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Research

Protecting coastal environments for the long-term requires a host of approaches. UVA researchers are working on several: living barriers, revitalized seagrass meadows, and a better balance between predator and prey.

Research Professor Peter Berg has designed new devices that gather more accurate data. “Now we can get deeper insights into how these ecosystems function, which helps us better protect them,” says Berg.

The accuracy of laboratory measurements is compromised by not mimicking natural conditions.

The method developed by UVA is more accurate because it doesn’t disturb sediments, block light or disrupt currents.

Samples of the the seafloor reveal its health and provide clues to success of seagrass restoration.

Seagrass is a powerful weapon in the fight for coastal resilience. It slows waves, provides habitat, retains sand, and captures carbon.

Researchers from UVA and The Nature Conservancy build oyster castles on the Eastern Shore. These living barriers work better than hardened structures like seawalls to slow coastal erosion and habitat destruction.

The oyster castles are built of custom-designed concrete blocks that provide habitat for juvenile oysters. The castles prevent the scouring away of the sea floor caused by structures like seawalls and reduce coastal erosion.

Predators like raccoons followed humans to the barrier islands in the 1900s, adding to the challenges already faced by birds living in shrinking coastal environments.

Interventions by researchers--including treating bird eggs with a compound distasteful to predators--have helped tens of thousands of native and migrating birds to rebound.

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Disappearing Act

The coastal habitats of many of Virginia’s barrier islands have shrunk dramatically since 1984.

The accuracy of laboratory measurements is compromised by not mimicking natural conditions.
Samples of the the seafloor reveal its health and provide clues to success of seagrass restoration.
Researchers from UVA and The Nature Conservancy build oyster castles on the Eastern Shore. These living barriers work better than hardened structures like seawalls to slow coastal erosion and habitat destruction.
Predators like raccoons followed humans to the barrier islands in the 1900s, adding to the challenges already faced by birds living in shrinking coastal environments.
The method developed by UVA is more accurate because it doesn’t disturb sediments, block light or disrupt currents.
Seagrass is a powerful weapon in the fight for coastal resilience. It slows waves, provides habitat, retains sand, and captures carbon.
The oyster castles are built of custom-designed concrete blocks that provide habitat for juvenile oysters. The castles prevent the scouring away of the sea floor caused by structures like seawalls and reduce coastal erosion.
Interventions by researchers--including treating bird eggs with a compound distasteful to predators--have helped tens of thousands of native and migrating birds to rebound.
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