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Characterizing storm, flood risk reduction benefits derived from mangroves during extreme weather events Engineering With Nature® Podcast, Season 1: Episode 4

Published Sept. 16, 2020
A new podcast series tells the stories of how, over the last 10 years, a growing international community of practitioners, scientists, engineers, and researchers across many disciplines and organizations are working together to combine natural and engineering systems to solve problems and diversify infrastructure value by applying the principles and practices of Engineering With Nature®.

A new podcast series tells the stories of how, over the last 10 years, a growing international community of practitioners, scientists, engineers, and researchers across many disciplines and organizations are working together to combine natural and engineering systems to solve problems and diversify infrastructure value by applying the principles and practices of Engineering With Nature®.

Wave interacting with idealized mangrove forest shielding model buildings in physical model experiments at Oregon State University

Wave interacting with idealized mangrove forest shielding model buildings in physical model experiments at Oregon State University

Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves) in Islamorada, Fla., USA.

Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves) in Islamorada, Fla., USA.

VICKSBURG, Miss. – In this episode of the Engineering With Nature Podcast, guest Dr. Tori Tomiczek, an assistant professor in the Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department at the U.S. Naval Academy, discusses the role of natural infrastructure in reducing flood risk and damage during major storms, as well as increasing coastal resilience through her groundbreaking work that demonstrates the importance of mangroves in protecting coastal shorelines.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, Tomiczek’s curiosity about how hurricanes impact structures, plus her interests in geotechnical engineering and fluid mechanics, led her to focus on coastal engineering. Tomiczek’s belief in the importance of protecting coastlines was reinforced in 2012 when she did field work in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy; and what she learned from Hurricane Irma in 2017 led to her groundbreaking research on the important role of mangroves in protecting coastal shorelines. 

Natural features, such as mangrove trees and forests, can provide shoreline protection with their root systems, trapping sediments and sand and helping to prevent shoreline erosion. During extreme weather events, these plant systems dampen waves and reduce the associated energy in the water. In turn, impacts to inland areas can be reduced.  These ecosystems also provide other environmental services such as storing carbon and providing habitat for fish.   

Tomiczek and her colleagues have conducted lab and field tests to better understand the hydrodynamic effects of mangroves. She is currently working with colleagues at the U.S. Army Engineer Research Development Center to build large-scale, physical models that will provide more insight into how waves are transformed by mangrove forests. She hopes this work will inform robust design guidance for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts, coastal managers, community planners, coastal waterfront property owners and other coastal stakeholders interested in using natural systems for coastal resilience. Tomiczek believes that the Engineering With Nature initiative is a “fantastic way to spread awareness and improve the general understanding of how we can use these systems.”  She also sees value in using these natural and nature-based features as ‘stand-alone’ projects and in tandem with conventional infrastructure – a spectrum of nature-based solutions that will improve coastal resilience in the U.S. and around the world.

Engineering With Nature Podcast Series

About Engineering With Nature

Engineering With Nature (EWN) is defined as the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaboration.

Initiated in 2010 by a team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) scientists and engineers, EWN seeks to enable and support more sustainable water and infrastructure development practices, projects and outcomes by integrating engineering and natural processes. There is a growing interest in nature-based solutions worldwide, and EWN approaches provide a means for delivering those solutions across USACE’s missions, including navigation infrastructure, flood risk management, ecosystem restoration and beyond. The collaborations and partnerships developed through EWN initiative have expanded knowledge sharing and application across government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia in the U.S. and internationally. 

Sustainable development of infrastructure projects presents both challenges and opportunities. Practical approaches are needed to better understand and combine natural and engineered systems, where the desired outcome is more socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable projects. This is a goal shared by the USACE, its partner organizations, stakeholders and the public. For more information, please visit our website at: www.engineeringwithnature.org.


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