What are Living Shorelines?
Living Shorelines are softer, greener alternatives to stabilize shorelines from erosion, sea level rise, and other damage. They protect, restore, or enhance natural shoreline habitat and maintain coastal processes through the strategic placement of plants, oyster shell, and other structural organic materials.
Shoreline hardening with fixed structures creates both short and long terms problems for coastal wildlife. In the short term, armoring reduces the amount of habitat available to nesting sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, and shorebirds.
Sea walls have been shown to lower the frequency of sea turtle nesting and cause sea turtles to nest nearer the water line, thus exposing nests to failure from erosion and inundation, especially in seasons when tropical storms occur.
Shorebirds and waterbirds are more abundant and diverse on unarmored segments of coastline than on armored sections of coastline. In addition to lack of access at high tide and habitat loss, there is also a reduction in prey availability on armored beaches.
In the long term, armoring changes beach dynamics and can increase the rate of coastal erosion. It can also beget more armoring (both on sandy beaches and back bays) as seawalls re-direct wave energy, increasing erosion to adjacent properties.
How is the FWC involved in Living Shorelines?
With the help of partners, the FWC is taking action to promote and educate people about living shorelines and find out more information about their relative benefits to other forms of shoreline stabilization.
One way we are doing this is by developing a Living Shorelines training course for marine contractors. The FWC is spearheading a statewide effort by several organizations to develop curriculum, advertise, organize and teach the course. The program will also include a mentoring program for contractors to solidify their learning while they are working to incorporate living shorelines into their services.
The FWC is also conducting a research project comparing the ecological benefits of four different shoreline stabilization methods that may be used in response to sea level rise: standard seawall, modified seawall resembling mangrove prop roots, mangrove living shoreline, and oyster shell living shoreline. The project objective is to compare ecological benefits among methods. Populations of fish, invertebrates, and benthic infauna will be compared at each project site. This project is funded by a grant from the State Wildlife Grants program.
How Green or Grey should Your Shoreline Be?
Living Shorelines: Softer "Green" Solutions
Provides a buffer to upland areas and brakes small waves. Suitable for low wave energy areas.
Added structure holds the toe of existing or vegetated slope in place. Suitable for most areas except high wave energy environments.
Parallel to vegetated shoreline, reduces wave energy and prevents erosion. Suitable for most areas except high wave energy environments.
Coastal Structures: Harder "Grey" Solutions
Offshore structures intended to break waves, reducing the force of wave action and encourage sediment accretion. Vegetation optional. Suitable for most areas.
Lays over the slope of the shoreline and protects it from erosion and waves. Suitable for sites with existing hardened shoreline structures.
Vertical wall parallel to the shoreline intended to hold soil in place. Suitable for high energy settings and sites with existing hard shoreline structures.
Courtesy of Natural and Structural Measures for Shoreline Stabilization brochure created by the Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering.