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Increased Utilization of Storm Surge Barriers: A Research Agenda on Estuary Impacts


Rising coastal flood risk and recent disasters are driving interest in the construction of gated storm surge barriers worldwide, with current studies recommending barriers for at least 11 estuaries in the United States alone. Surge barriers partially block estuary-ocean exchange with infrastructure across an estuary or its inlet and include gated areas that are closed only during flood events. They can alter the stratification and salt intrusion, change sedimentary systems, and curtail animal migration and ecosystem connectivity, with impacts growing larger with increasing gate closures. Existing barriers are being used with increasing frequency due to sea level rise. New barrier proposals typically come with maximum closure frequency recommendations, yet the future adherence to them is uncertain. Given that the broader environmental effects and coupled-human dynamics of surge barriers are not well-understood, we present an interdisciplinary research agenda for this increasingly prevalent modification to our coastal zone. 

About this article

This open-access article, published in the Earth's Future, summarizes results of analyses conducted as part of a 2018 catalyst project. 


Orton, P., Ralston, D., van Prooijen, B., Secor, D., Ganju, N., Chen, Z., et al. (2023). Increased utilization of storm surge barriers: A research agenda on estuary impacts. Earth's Future, 11, e2022EF002991.