Today is Bastille Day in France, essentially the French equivalent of the 4th of July, and it provides an opportunity to reflect on UNC CSI’s international partnerships, specifically with our stylish friends across l’Océan Atlantique. Just like most Americans, the French love sunshine, surf and seafood. Because of its unique geologic history, France is surrounded by stunning seaside areas including the La Côte d’Azur and the Atlantic shore. Beaches, dunes, marshes and estuaries provide important habitats and areas for recreation and tourism, such as the impressive Dune du Pilat at the mouth of Arcachon Bay (Photo 1). But also like the U.S., storm surges, sea-level rise and shoreline erosion are challenges facing France. Winter storms, in particular, bring powerful waves and potentially lethal marine inundations (Photo 2). For example, Tempête Xynthia, an incredibly strong storm system in 2010, caused over 50 surge-related deaths and extensive damage in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a region in southwest France.Since January, Dr. J.P. Walsh, a Professor at East Carolina University and UNC Coastal Studies Institute, has been working at the Université de Bordeaux as part of a Fulbright research scholarship. Over the last decade, several French graduate students who come to eastern NC to study coastal processes. Now, Walsh is working in France with colleagues Dr. Jean-Luc Schneider at the Université de Bordeaux and Dr. Eric Chaumillon from the Université de La Rochelle. Recently, they and others published a paper on storm surge processes and associated sedimentary records (see link). During Walsh’s visit, his collaborative research is focusing on sedimentation and changes of coastal lowland areas over the last few decades. This effort, also involving Dr. Reide Corbett from CSI’s Coastal Processes program, aligns well with some of their past and ongoing work in NC. A better understanding of how storms and sea-level rise are driving ocean and estuarine shoreline changes is important to sustainable development and sound management approaches. Walsh returns to the U.S. later this summer. He and Corbett plan to continue working with French scientists and students.
Photo 1: Dune de Pilat which is located at the mouth of Arcachon Bay. The dune is huge - over three times taller than Jockey’s Ridge in NC. Arcachon Bay is an important area for tourism and oyster aquaculture. Human activities and natural forcings have impacted the coast.
Photo 2: Explosion of ocean water emanates from a seawall. Storm waves and elevated water levels can cause significant erosion and deposition, which can be examined with aerial imagery and coring. Châtelaillon-Plage, southwest France. Photo by Emeric Bourineau.
Photo 3: Walsh coring on Île de Ré in southwest France. Photo by Eric Chaumillon.
Photo 4: Walsh and Chaumillon from Université de La Rochelle after a successful marsh coring effort.