Converging on Coastal Science


Advancing a more collective understanding of coastal systems dynamics and evolution is a formidable scientific challenge. PNNL is meeting it head on to inform decisions for the future.

With water covering more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, it’s no wonder our planet is nicknamed the Blue Marble. Seen from outer space, our marble is interwoven with swirls of clouds and splotches of land defined by coastlines—372,000 miles worth.

Zoom in on the marble and you’ll see the coastlines intersecting countless rivers and streams. You’ll also see the concentration of coastal cities, including many of the world’s largest and smallest. Coastal zones account for nearly half of our global population and host the infrastructure that drives a global economy.

Were you to zoom even further into these land-water intersections—beyond what the naked eye can see—you’d find a bustling community of tiny organisms that filter both nutrients and contaminants to keep our planet healthy.

Such is the scope of Earth’s terrestrial-aquatic interface, a dynamic global ecosystem that changes with the tide, the seasons, human development, and increasingly, climate.

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Image via Pacific Northwest National Laboratory