Living shorelines use plants and other natural materials to stabilize shorelines, minimize coastal erosion and maintain the natural coastline. This benefits property owners as well as fish and wildlife. Coastal systems maintain a natural cycle of sediment transport that is vital for productive bays, estuaries, salt marshes and tidal flats. Understanding these erosion and sedimentation processes along with careful site planning can help determine the best method of shoreline stabilization to protect waterfront property and the quality of the waterbody for all to enjoy. Living shorelines provide shoreline stabilization using a combination of coastal native vegetation for sediment stabilization and, if needed, breakwaters constructed of oyster shells, limestone rock, or other structures conducive to the natural environment.
Enhanced natural systems can reduce impacts of storms. The region should work to integrate natural (e.g., living shorelines and wetlands restoration) and nature-based (e.g., sand dune ecosystem creation) approaches to increase resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities. There are problems associated with conventional shoreline armoring using seawalls as cited in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ecosystem Restoration Section:
• Create a “bathtub” effect in bays, removing the gentle rolling/lapping of waves on shorelines into “popping” of waves against walls.
• Perpetuates erosion in front of/behind structure
• Disrupts longshore sediment transport
• Creates erosion of adjacent properties
• Costly to construct and maintain
• Does not allow for acclimation to sea level rise
• Provides no habitat for wildlife – loss of intertidal zone
• Loss of natural shoreline vegetation reduces water quality by removing the shoreline’s ability to filter excess nutrients from runoff.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, Regional Climate Action Plan (October 2O12) contains the following statements and recommendations regarding living shorelines in Southeast Florida:
• Hardened shorelines may be transformed to living shorelines.
• Coordinate “living shorelines” objectives at regional scale to foster use of natural infrastructure (e.g. coral reefs, native vegetation and mangrove wetlands) instead of or in addition to grey infrastructure (e.g. bulkheads).