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Flawed studies assess dredge-and-fill programs to protect coastlines


Authors call for urgent reform of agency practices to improve ecological monitoring

Massive dredge-and-fill projects have become a common method of combating shoreline erosion as sea level rises and major storms become more common. Such "beach nourishment" projects deposit millions of cubic meters of fill in beach systems. This can bury shallow reefs and degrade other beach habitats, depressing nesting in sea turtles and reducing the densities of prey for shorebirds, fishes, and crabs.

In the October 2005 issue of BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, marine scientists Charles H. Peterson of the University of North Carolina and Melanie J. Bishop, now of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, report that, despite expensive, multidecadal monitoring, the majority of studies of the ecological impacts of beach nourishment are scientifically inadequate and suffer from critical flaws, improper analyses, and unjustified interpretations. Peterson and Bishop’s survey discovered that monitoring is typically conducted by project promoters with no independent peer review.

They note that the US Army Corps of Engineers and state permitting agencies, which oversee most of the monitoring studies, do not have expertise adequate to assess them. Peterson and Bishop conclude that reform of agency practices is urgently needed as the cumulative risk of severe ecological impacts grows.

Donna Royston | EurekAlert!
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