USGS public domain photo of mangroves. Photo shows spidery network of roots dipping into water with lush green foliage above.
Red mangrove trees. Credit: Caroline Rogers, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineering With Nature (EWN) initiative uses a collaborative process to align natural and engineered systems “to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits.” A large network of government agencies and non-governmental organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund) contribute knowledge and resources to EWN projects, publications, workshops, public outreach, and more.

Sustainable practices are at the heart of the EWN’s work. One of the latest additions to the movement is the Engineering With Nature Podcast.

To date, four of a planned 10-episode Series 1 have been released. The fourth episode caught our eye … well, ears … with its many crossover topics with geosynthetics: “Characterizing Storm and Flood Risk Reduction Benefits Derived from Mangroves During Extreme Weather Events.”

ENGINEERING WITH NATURE ON COASTAL PROTECTION & MANGROVES

The Engineering With Nature Podcast is available for downloads/subscriptions from the Apple Podcast store. You can also stream it directly on the EWN website.

While we recommend the ease of a podcast subscription–which also helps let the creators know you are engaged, and that’s a good thing for us to do–the Engineering With Nature website is a very worthwhile visit, given its enormous volume of resources.

Season 1, Episode 4 features a 24-minute interview with Dr. Tori Tomiczek, an Assistant Professor with the Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department at the United States Naval Academy. Dr. Tomiczek discusses cutting-edge research into the important role of mangroves in protecting coastal shorelines.

We’ve looked at this very topic on Geosynthetica previously, and in fact revisited it earlier in 2020 as part of our 30 Days of Earth Day series. We wrote:

Coastline mangrove growth can play a vital role in the health of marine ecosystems. … Mangroves intricately entangle above-ground root systems that protect shorelines by absorbing wave energy and reducing the velocity of water passing through the root barrier. Wave energy may be reduced by 75% in the wave’s passage through approximately 200 metres of mangrove, hence reducing the likelihood of coastal erosion. Mangroves are also an integral part of estuary waterways. They maintain coastal water quality by abiotic and biotic retention, removal and cycling of nutrients and pollutants, as well as promoting marine ecosystems.

Dr. Tomiczek has studied these processes closely around the world, with a particular eye to mangroves in Florida and the beneficial impact of different types of mangroves (red, black, or white) on wave energy, erosion control, etc.

It is a fascinating subject, and it’s one that engineered geosynthetic systems can contribute to the very ideals of the Engineering With Nature movement.

GEOSYNTHETICS IN COASTAL PROTECTION

Geotextile containers, bags, and tubes have played a significant role in many shoreline protection and beach renourishment projects. These geosynthetic systems help calm waters and improve sand build up. With mangroves, geosynthetic engineered designs can give the mangrove system more time to effectively root in to the environment, thereby increasing the beneficial impact of the natural system. The shoreline will be more resilient against storm surges.

Example coastal protection projects with approaches that would work well for Engineering With Nature ideas (mangroves and otherwise):

SEE ALSO: Flood Protection Strategies with Geosynthetics

What podcasts and publications are you inspired by lately? Let us know.

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