Center for Coastal Climate Resilience signs 4-year, $2.75 million agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for work on nature-based solutions

Jeff King and Mike Beck
USACE's Jeff King, left, and CCCR director Mike Beck recently announced a partnership for work on nature-based solutions.

Coastal communities face escalating risks from climate change, natural disasters, and the loss of coastal habitats, such as salt marshes, mangroves, and coral reefs, and the outlook is particularly dire for many of our most vulnerable communities. In response to these pressing issues, the UC Santa Cruz Center for Coastal Climate Resilience (CCCR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineering With Nature program recently signed a 4-year, $2.75 million cooperative agreement. They aim to address these challenges with equitable, nature-based solutions.

Recent research from CCCR, in collaboration with USACE and other federal partners, underscores the pivotal role of coastal nature-based solutions, including wetlands and reefs, in serving as crucial first lines of defense against floods. Coral reefs in the U.S. alone provide over $1.8 billion in annual flood risk reduction benefits and safeguard some of the most vulnerable coastal communities in U.S. territories, according to research by Borja Reguero, associate professor on coastal risks with UCSC’s Coastal Science and Policy Program. These natural barriers also attenuate waves and surges, reducing flood damage and risks to coastal communities.

While the benefits of nature-based solutions are clear, significant gaps in knowledge, capacity, and tools persist among industry, agency, and municipal professionals. This partnership between CCCR and USACE aims to bridge these gaps and advance the science and implementation of nature-based solutions, particularly for communities most vulnerable to coastal disasters.

“The center has played a crucial role in assessing coastal risks and advancing solutions that benefit people and the environment, but we still have a surprisingly long way to go in working with nature to help us manage risks,” said CCCR Director Mike Beck. “This new partnership with USACE Engineering With Nature will help fill many critical gaps in working with our national, natural infrastructure.”

The federal government has recognized the importance of nature-based solutions in combating climate change, as evidenced by the recent White House Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies and the Opportunities to Accelerate Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap.  

“This new cooperative agreement significantly strengthens the partnership between the USACE, Engineering With Nature, and UC Santa Cruz.  It will advance the science and implementation of nature-based solutions to help communities and particularly those most vulnerable to coastal disasters,” said Jeff King, national lead for the USACE Engineering With Nature program.

Together, CCCR and USACE will work to achieve three key goals that are critical to enabling significant new investments in nature-based solutions:

  • Enable the assessment of nature’s benefits in private insurance and public risk models.
  • Advance methods for the evaluation of nature-based solutions adaptation benefits and their inclusion in Benefit Cost Analyses (BCAs).
  • Support more equitable investments in adaptation and nature-based solutions by advancing social and vulnerability metrics in risk assessments and BCAs.

The work outlined in this new cooperative agreement builds on insights from the recent report called Nature-Based Solutions & Risk Management: Recommendations for Integrating Nature into Risk Science and Insurance, which was produced collaboratively by CCCR, the USACE Engineering With Nature program, and industry partners Guy Carpenter and AXA Research Fund.  

Over the course of the agreement, CCCR and USACE will collaborate with partners to deliver coastal flood models, analyze nature's benefits, provide design recommendations for coral and rocky reef nature-based solutions, and offer insights into protecting underserved communities. The research will also lead to more equitable benefit-cost analyses by incorporating social vulnerability and nature-based solutions metrics.