Living shorelines: the basics
Natural and Structural Measures for Shoreline Stabilization, developed by SAGE (Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering), NOAA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This tri-fold brochure presents a continuum of shoreline management techniques from “green to gray,” from natural and soft to hard, and describes suitability, materials, general costs, benefits, and disadvantages of each.
Living Shorelines Academy – your digital one-stop-shop resource for all things LSL
- Living shorelines training modules, one with the basics for property owners, and one that covers design, construction, and permitting of LSLs in greater detail.
- A peer-reviewed database of white papers and reports on the subject of livingshorelines
- A database of existing living shorelines project databases
- A map of highlighted living shorelines projects across the US
- A library of living shoreline resources, including trainings, websites, print materials, videos and more
- A directory of living shorelines professionals
- An online forum where the living shorelines community can collaborate by sharing research, ideas and photos
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s guiding principles for living shorelines, including physical, ecological, and policy considerations.
VIMS was an early advocate for living shorelines and continues to be a primary source of LSL information not only for the Chesapeake Bay, but well beyond to other estuaries.
A description of living shoreline components and considerations from water to land across various habitat zones.
Glossary of Terms
Frequently Used Terms
Accretion – The gradual accumulation of additional layers of sediment.
Armoring – The construction of vertical structures (e.g. bulkheads and seawalls) for shoreline protection (Living Shorelines: a technical guide for contractors in Alabama and Mississippi).
Best management practices – A set of practices that are determined to be an effective and practicable means of achieving the desired goals or standards.
Biolog – See Coir log.
Boat wake – The waves left behind as a boat moves through the water.
Brackish water – A mixture of river water and seawater, forming slightly salty conditions often found in estuaries.
Breakwater – A structure made of rock, concrete, wood, oysters, or other material placed offshore to reduce the intensity of waves along the shoreline.
Bulkhead – A vertical structure made of wood, steel, or vinyl constructed along the edge of a shoreline for protection.
Coir logs – Logs of varying sizes made mostly of coconut fibers, used to stabilize the toe of marshes and banks. Coir logs serve as a small wave barrier, and degrade over 3-5 years. Also called “Biologs”.
Erosion – The transport of sand, soil, or natural materials along the shoreline by natural forces.
Estuary – A partially closed body of water where a freshwater source (e.g. river, stream) mixes with relatively salty water, creating brackish conditions. Estuaries are often tidally influenced and provide a transition zone between freshwater and saltwater.
Fetch – The distance traveled by winds or waves across open water.
Groin – In coastal engineering, a structure built perpendicular from a beach to reduce erosion or accumulate sediment that is being transported along the coast.
Habitat – The place or environment where an animal, plant, or other organism naturally lives and grows.
Intertidal zone – The area between mean high water and mean low water.
Living Shoreline – A shoreline management practice that provides erosion control benefits; protects, restores, or enhances natural shoreline habitat; and maintains coastal process through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural organic materials (https://shoreline.noaa.gov/glossary.html).
Mean high water – The average highest daily level of the tide over time.
Mean low water – The average lowest daily level of the tide over time.
Redeemed seawall – An existing seawall structure that has living shoreline components added on the waterward side, such as rip rap, terraces, and vegetation, to provide habitat and wave attenuation.
Resilience – The capacity to recovery quickly from disruption; the ability to stay intact and maintain function following adverse conditions.
Retaining wall – A rigid structure that holds back soil along a slope. A retaining wall is different from a seawall in the fact that it typically has dry soil on both sides and does not get inundated by the tide.
Revetment – A sloping structure along the shoreline made of rip rap, concrete blocks, or rubble.
Rip rap – Loose rocks or boulders placed along a shoreline to absorb wave energy and reduce erosion.
Riparian – The transition area between land and water.
Runoff – The draining of water over the ground. In Florida, this often refers to excess stormwater as it drains to nearby waterways.
Salinity – The saltiness of water.
Seawall – A hardened structure, usually vertical, built along the coast to protect the land from wave and tidal action.
Sediment – Natural material such as sand or silt that settles at the bottom of a water body.
Sill – A barrier that runs parallel along the base of the shoreline, usually made of rock, that extends above mean high water and protects a shoreline from wave energy.
Storm surge – A temporary rise in sea level due to the action of wind stress on the water surface and low atmospheric pressure created during storms which can cause coastal flooding (http://www.sagecoast.org/docs/Living%20Shoreline%20Brochure_Outside.jpg).
Storm water – Water that originates during precipitation events.
Submerged lands – Land that is below the mean high water line.
Tidal range – The vertical difference between high and low tide (http://www.sagecoast.org/docs/Living%20Shoreline%20Brochure_Outside.jpg).
Turbidity – The cloudiness of water, often caused by suspended solid matter such as sediments, organic material, or plankton.
Upland – Dry habitat along the edge of a waterway that does not receive regular flooding.
Wave attenuation – A reduction in size and/or strength of waves.
Wave energy – The force a wave is likely to have on a shoreline. Wave energy can depend on environmental factors like shore orientation, wind, channel width, and water depth (http://www.sagecoast.org/docs/Living%20Shoreline%20Brochure_Outside.jpg).
Wetland – An ecosystem that is seasonally or permanently inundated with water, and contains aquatic plants. Wetlands are typically highly diverse ecosystems, and provide flood control, water filtration, shoreline protection, and wildlife habitat.
Florida living shorelines
A new interactive story map shows how Southeast Florida is building shoreline resilience as climate change and its effects on the region are becoming increasingly evident.
Produced by Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Prepared for June 2018 Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Northwest District
Port Orange Shoreline Habitat Restoration and Management Plan
Adopted by the City of Port Orange, Volusia County, in 2009 to encourage living shorelines as a method to stabilize coastal properties while maintaining natural coastal processes and resources.
Northwest Florida Water Management District, content by F. Eidse. 2007. Public Information Bulletin 07-02.
Ray-Culp, M. 2007. National Wetlands Newsletter 29:6.
An adult education UF/IFAS Extension program developed by the University of Florida for persons interested in learning more about Florida’s coastal environment.
This Special Topics course provides training in the restoration of living shorelines, oyster reefs, mangroves, and marsh, with focus on ecology, benefits, methods, and monitoring techniques.
Local FNPS chapters can assist homeowners with selecting plants appropriate for their climate zone, elevation, salinity tolerance, and desired aesthetics.
Resources for plant identification, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, and contact information for local extension offices.
Regulatory and permitting – Florida department of environmental protection
Ankerson, T.T., A. Barshel, and V. Chestnut. 2018. Florida Sea Grant College Program, UF/IFAS Extension.
Regulatory and permitting – US Army Corps of Engineers
USACE Nationwide Permit 54 – Living Shorelines
In an effort to streamline permitting, the US Army Corps of Engineers has approved over 50 nationwide permits that cover a range of activities that will “result in no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects”. Many proposed Living Shorelines projects are covered under these conditions, especially Nationwide Permit 54 which is focused on living shoreline construction. Explore the conditions below to see if your project applies to one of the Nationwide Permit options.
Living shoreline research
Database of living shorelines publications searchable by keywords such as materials used, location, author, and more.
Bilkovic, D.M., M.M. Mitchell, M.K. La Peyre, J.D. Toft. 2017. Living shorelines – the science and management of nature-based coastal protection. CRC Press.
Gittman, R.K., S.B. Scyphers, C.S. Smith, I.P. Neylan, J.H. Grabowski. 2016. Ecological consequences of shoreline hardening: A meta-analysis. BioScience (2016) 66 (9): 763-773.
The authors conclude that “Seawalls supported 23% lower biodiversity and 45% fewer organisms than natural shorelines.”
Manis, J.E., S.K. Garvis, S.M. Jachec and L.J. Walters. 2015. Wave attenuation experiments over living shorelines over time: a wave tank study to assess recreational boating pressures. Journal of Coastal Conservation 19(1), p. 1-11.
Produced by The Nature Conservancy.
Pilkey, O.H., N. Longo, R. Young, and A. Coburn. 2012. Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University.
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Habitat Management Series #10.
Bilkovic. D.M. and M.M. Roggero. 2008. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Vol. 358: 27-39.
National Research Council. 2007. Mitigating shore erosion along sheltered coasts. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.
This report by the National Research Council is the first major assessment of erosion and armoring on sheltered coastlines, as opposed to high-energy beaches. It highlights the consequences of cumulative loss of many small parcels of shoreline habitat. Each one of those individual property owners who hardens their bit of shoreline is a domino contributing to negative impacts. Available for free download.
Coen, L.D. and R.E. Grizzle. 2007. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Habitat Management Series #8.
Proceedings of the 2006 Living Shoreline Summit. CRC Publ. No. 08-164, Gloucester Point, VA. 136pp.
This paper by Scott Douglass and Brad Pickel is an important milestone in LSL history. It reports that 30% of Mobile Bay had been armored by 1997, and draws attention to the impacts of shoreline hardening.
Dean, R.G. 1986. Coastal armoring: effects, principles and mitigation. Coastal Engineering Proceedings No. 20 (1986).
Sea level rise, climate change and blue carbon
Gabler, C.A., M.J. Osland, J.B. Grace, C.L. Stagg, R.H. Day, et al. 2017. Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century. Nature Climate Change 7, 142-147.
Davis, J.L., C.A. Currin, C. O’Brien, C. Raffenburg, A. Davis. 2015. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0142595.
Produced by Restore America’s Estuaries
Produced by Georgetown Climate Center.