WHAT IS A LIVING SHORELINE?
A “living shoreline” is a method of shoreline stabilization and protection for wetlands that is built using natural materials and native plants. This process mimics natural shoreline habitats by incorporating a combination of wetland plants, biodegradable coconut-fiber coir logs, fiber matting, oyster shell bags, and live mussels and/or oysters. They are a habitat friendly alternative to rip rap, bulkhead or stone revetments. Living shorelines create wetland habitat that is important for blue crabs, oysters, fish, birds and plants. They can also stop erosion, increase water quality, armor the shoreline from erosion and defend our coasts from damaging storm wave energy.
Living shorelines are referred to as a type of ‘soft’ infrastructure because they can adapt to a changing environment while also being strong. ‘Hard’ infrastructures, such as bulkheads or retaining walls, cannot change depending on the season, weather or other conditions. Instead of an abrupt dropoff from land to water, living shorelines create a gentler slope which connects plants and animals to the water. The softer materials are also able to absorb wave energy and reduce flooding during hurricanes and storms. Hard structures deflect strong wave energy, causing below water scouring, structural damage, and even shoreline erosion downstream. This chart compares shoreline protection methods and the benefits they provide.
(icons in diagrams provided by the Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environemtnal Science)