Graham Sustainability Institute

Re-Engineering Living Shorelines for High-Energy Coastal Environments

May 2016

In estuaries worldwide, the loss of salt marshes and oyster reefs has been alarming, especially along high-energy coastlines. To dampen boat wake and wave stress, mitigate erosion, and restore oysters, managers are using more natural bank stabilization techniques—often referred to as living shorelines—adjacent to salt marsh edges. These efforts have been largely unsuccessful in achieving coastal management goals under the most destructive, high-energy conditions. This project will test the efficacy of a new strategy for protecting coastal habitat in high-energy environments. A research team will integrate engineering and ecological approaches by deploying “gabion-breaks,” a hybrid method for building living shorelines to protect and restore coastlines. Over three years, boat wake and wave energy, oyster reef development, and salt marsh edge movement will be monitored along reaches of shoreline with and without gabion-breaks. The team will measure their success in protecting and enhancing coastal habitat. The project team will incorporate their findings into training activities for restoration practitioners and coastal managers as well as interpretive exhibits for reserve visitors.