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Living Shorelines

What are Living Shorelines?

Living shoreline projects use the strategic placement of natural materials, vegetation, rock, and shellfish to create an environmentally-friendly buffer that protects coastlines from erosion and wave energy.

Tidal shorelines are continually eroded by wind and waves, and although this process occurs naturally, human activities like high-speed boating, sand mining and runoff can exacerbate the rate of erosion and disrupt the ecosystem around them. In addition, rising sea levels pose a huge threat to coastlines by increasing erosion, storm inundation, and flooding. Installing living shorelines is a way to work with natural habitats and rising sea levels while still protecting important tidal processes.

Conventional shoreline stabilization methods including bulkheads and revetments (riprap) are a short term solution to protecting the coastline from erosion. They can actually damage shallow tidal zones when waves are reflected back and offer very low habitat value. Not to mention they are far more expensive to install and upkeep!

Protecting our shorelines using native trees, shrubs, grasses, and reef forming animals can help combat natural and induced erosion of our coastlines. In addition, this form of stabilization adds multiple benefits back to the environment by encouraging natural processes, as opposed to conventional shoreline stabilization methods.

Video: Preserving Our Shorelines

A video made by one of our supporters, The Honda Marine Science Foundation, documents our passionate team of researchers and volunteers, including collaborators from California State University Fullerton and California State University Long Beach, who are working to restore oyster and eelgrass habitats to protect Southern California’s shoreline.

Benefits of Living Shorelines

  • Improves water quality by improving natural water filtration
  • Provides shallow water habitat for diverse assemblages of animals and plants
  • Absorbs wave energy to protect the shallow sub-tidal zone and underwater grasses
  • Returns habitat connectivity between terrestrial and subtidal communities

Upper Newport Bay Living Shorelines Project

Coastkeeper, in partnership with California State University Fullerton and California State University Long Beach are conducting a new restoration project which targets the native Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, and native eelgrass, Zostera marina, in an innovative integrated approach in Newport Beach, California. We plan to harness the sediment stabilization characteristics of each to counteract shoreline erosion and provide other critically needed environmental and economic benefits.

Orange County Coastkeeper predicts this dual restoration approach will provide exponentially greater protection than individual restoration, as well as greater ecosystem and economic benefits than currently used man-made erosion prevention structures. We began implementation of the project in the summer of 2016 in Upper Newport Bay. Check back soon to find out more ways you can get involved!

Funding provided by:

The California State Coastal Conservancy, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership, and the Honda Marine Science Foundation

Eelgrass Site Maps