Top: An aerial view of flooded Hutaff Island, foreground, and the mainland, background, following Hurricane Florence. Above:
Migrating shorebirds mix and mingle, from left, a black-bellied plover, willet, black-bellied plover and short-billed dowitchers sleep
at Rich Inlet.
WALKER GOLDER WALKER GOLDER
the landscape of the island. The birds are excellent at finding
these habitats, but the problem is finding undeveloped bar-rier
islands, where the ends of barrier islands near inlets can
overwash. Jetties, terminal groins and other hard structures
at inlets or other shorelines prevent the natural dynamics of
barrier islands and eliminate habitat that beach-nesting birds
“We need to protect and restore the habitats birds depend
on so that birds can cope with periodic disruptions in habitat
or food availability in the wake of hurricanes,” Golder says.
“We need to make sure that habitats are resilient to storms
and climate change.”
Resilient, healthy coastal ecosystems not only benefit birds;
they serve as the first line of protection for our coastal com-munities
facing stronger, more frequent storms and sea level
rise. It’s why Audubon is advancing strategies to help the
Atlantic shoreline adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Marshes, barrier islands, oyster beds, and tidal flats — “green
infrastructure” — harness nature’s own defenses and are
often more effective in containing storm surge and protecting
coastal communities than “gray infrastructures” like jetties,
groins, and seawalls (which can do more harm than good).
These climate-smart solutions not only buffer the impacts of
storms, reduce flooding, and minimize wetland loss, but they
also protect biodiversity and support healthy populations of
birds and fish.