What is a Living Shoreline?

Living Shorelines (LSLs) are protective structures along shoreline properties that provide habitat for plants and animals through strategic placement of components along the entire transition from water to land. Every LSL should be the result of thoughtful, careful consideration of each project site and strategic placement of natural components along the shoreline profile.

A continuum comparing the greenness of different shoreline stabilization methods.

Living Shorelines take a ‘greener’ approach to stabilizing the shore, as seen in the options toward the left of this diagram from the Natural and Structural Measures for Shoreline Stabilization brochure created by the Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering (SAGE 2015). Diagram from NOAA Living Shorelines.

The LSL approach represents a “softer and greener” alternative to shoreline hardening by using “plants, sand, and limited use of rock to provide shoreline protection and maintain valuable habitat. Living shoreline projects utilize a variety of structural and organic materials such as wetland plants, aquatic plants, oyster reefs, coir fiber logs, sand fill, and stone.” Living shorelines offer a more natural bank stabilization technique than traditional hard armoring such as seawalls or bulkheads.

A Living Shoreline constructed in Panama City, Florida using plants and oyster shell.

LSLs represent a “softer and greener” alternative to shoreline hardening [link to pictures of seawalls and bulkheads] by using plants (e.g., marsh grasses, mangroves, seagrasses, and upland, salt-tolerant species), oysters, coir fiber logs, and other natural materials. “Limited use of rock” may also be incorporated, though this website emphasizes the plant and oyster components for small properties along the continuum from green to gray.

When constructed correctly, a LSL is a shoreline management practice that not only provides erosion control, but also maintains coastal processes. Like naturally-vegetated coastlines, LSLs can help reduce wave energy and storm water flow rate, buffer storms, reduce erosion and property loss, trap sediment, maintain natural sediment movement, improve water quality, filter pollutants, allow tidal water exchange, preserve coastal resiliency, provide recreation, and provide important fish and wildlife habitat.


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