Graham Sustainability Institute

Assessing Ecological and Physical Performance of Sustainable Shoreline Structures

May 2016

Nature-based, ecologically enhanced, or soft shoreline stabilization techniques have the potential to maintain and enhance important ecological services, provide greater resilience to physical forces, and be cost-competitive with traditional approaches. In order for these techniques to be used more widely in the Hudson River Estuary, their performance must be demonstrated and evaluated locally. Landowners, site designers, and decision makers have expressed this need to enhance their confidence in proposing innovative designs to clients, investing in sustainable shoreline construction, and steering permit applications toward these less traditional options.

Over the past eight years, the Science Collaborative has supported the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project, which engages a regional research team to quantify the ecological functions and physical stresses on the full range of Hudson River shorelines. This research is the basis for development of information and tools needed by regulators, engineers, and resource managers to identify the best settings and approaches for sustainable shoreline protection in the Hudson River Estuary. The current project expands that work by 1) developing and fieldvalidating rapid assessment protocols for physical and ecological functions of ecologically enhanced shorelines; and 2) training local land managers in these protocols. This work will solidify confidence in the suitability of novel shoreline techniques in the Hudson River Estuary and enable local managers to track performance.