Coastal Resilience

Protecting America's shores for birds and people

Brown pelicans cluster on a small sand bar island in Galveston Bay, Texas. Photo: Julia Robinson

A worldwide catastrophe is underway among an extraordinary group of birds—the marathon migrants we know as shorebirds. In North America, the long-running International Shorebird Survey has shown that shorebird numbers in general have plunged by half since 1974, with the steepest declines among long-distance, Arctic-nesting species by more than 75 percent.  Climate change impacts, such as sea-level rise and extreme weather events, and coastal development result in the loss of safe, resource-rich places to rest, refuel, and winter for these shorebirds.

Under Audubon’s coastal resilience initiative, we are working to protect and restore coastal habitat through natural infrastructure policies and projects to reverse the declines in shorebird populations and to protect coastal communities from the impacts of a changing climate. Natural infrastructure, including wetlands, living shorelines, eelgrass, and barrier islands, or infrastructure projects built to mimic those habitats, serve as the first line of defense for coastal communities facing stronger, more frequent storms and sea level rise.

What you need to know about natural infrastructure.

Read more about the importance of natural infrastructure, and what Audubon is doing to maintain and enhance it, in our Natural Infrastructure Report.

Policies, such as the Coastal Barrier Resources Act and the Water Resources Development Act, promote coastal resilience by protecting and restoring natural infrastructure along our coasts. The CBRA prohibits most federal expenditures for development on areas included in the Coastal Barrier Resources System, protecting environmentally important beaches, islands, wetlands, inlets, spits and other coastal areas from federal programs that fund coastal development and re-development. Since its creation in 1982, the CBRA is estimated to have saved billions of federal tax dollars.  It also protects more than 3.5 million acres along the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic coast.  These areas are prone to deadly hurricanes and storms that threaten lives and cause enormous damage.  Removing federal dollars that support coastal development helps save money, lives and the environment.  Adding more areas to the protective CBRS will increase these benefits.

In addition, with staff and members that are part of communities impacted by recent hurricanes, Audubon supports recovery efforts, including those programs that protect and restore natural infrastructure that would cost-effectively reduce future storm and flooding risk.  Read more about our assessments after Hurricane Florence and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma




Birds That Depend on Resilient Coasts