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2008-2010 Research Projects: Humans and the Risks of Coastal Natural Hazards

Project: Spatial and Temporal Variability in Rate of Mean High Water Rise Along the South Carolina Coast during the Past 6000 Years

Principal Investigator

Paul Gayes, Coastal Carolina University

Project Number

R/CC-1

Research Description

South Carolina lacks a coast-wide set of three to four accurate records of sea-level change during the past several thousand years. The absence of such a high quality observational database, necessary to establish spatial and temporal differences in the rate of sea-level change along the state’s coastline, blocks a systematic study of causes and consequences of (differences in) past sea-level change up to the present and hampers the process of preparing for the future on the basis of both area-specific knowledge and insight and model-predicted acceleration in regional sea-level rise related to global warming.

The investigator and his colleagues propose to (1) develop a sea-level database for South Carolina by producing three new sets of high quality sea-level index points and critically evaluating published data, (2) analyze it for causes and effects, and (3) disseminate the results to all audiences that have a scientific, applied or educational interest in past and future changes in rate (and sign) of sea-level rise.

The specific objectives will be to (1) detect differential isostatic and (seismo-) tectonic land-level movements along the coast of South Carolina during the past 6000 years, (2) detect regional and/or local changes in tidal range during the past 6000 yr., (3) establish if, since when and by how much the rate of MHW(S) rise along the state’s coastline increased beginning some time during the past 150 years relative to the long-term rate of MHW(S) rise, and (4) determine the extent to which available litho- and biostratigraphic data of environmental changes can be explained in terms of the reconstructed MHW(S) changes and/or of other controls (data permitting).

Contact for Questions

Paul Gayes (ptgayes@coastal.edu)

Project: Beach Nourishment Activities and Their Potential Impacts on Sediment Movement and Biological Resources around Critical Hard Bottom Habitats on the Shoreface of the Grand Strand, S.C.

Principal Investigator

Ansley Wren, Coastal Carolina University

Project Number

R/CH-1

Research Description

Within South Carolina, the beaches of the Grand Strand represent critical natural resources that attract scores of new residents every year and contribute substantially to South Carolina’s $14 billion a year tourism industry (SC Travel and Tourism Council, 2001). Because constant erosion of this shoreline places billions of dollars worth of infrastructure at risk, the US Army Corps of Engineers established a 50-year management plan that includes nourishing these beaches on approximately 10-year intervals (USACE 2006). Little is known about the biocomplexity of these critical hard bottom habitats nearer to shore, including the spatial and temporal variability and interactions between the geological, physical, and biological processes. Further, the consequences of continued beach nourishment for the complex interactions between the physical and geological processes and biological communities remain poorly understood.

The principal investigator and her colleagues propose to (1) quantify the magnitude, frequency, and direction of sediment transport on and around the nearshore hard-bottom habitats of the Grand Strand, (2) determine if the hard bottom habitats on the shoreface and inner-shelf are significantly impacted from the re-nourishment project on the shorter times scales of days to months due to increased sediment supply and net offshore transport, and (3) determine what effect this may have on longer-term changes in community structure and shorter-term recruitment dynamics.

Contact for Questions

Ansley Wren (awren@coastal.edu)