Living Shorelines

This living shoreline along Jones Island in the White Oak River in Onslow County, NC, consists of marsh grass and an oyster reef to shield the shore from wave action.
Photo: N.C. Coastal Federation

Living shorelines use plants or other natural elements (e.g., oyster shells, sand, rocks) alone or in combination with harder shoreline structures, to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, and tributaries.


Living Shorelines for People and NatureThis chapter extends our understanding of ecological outcomes to incorporate social considerations and metrics using an ecosystem services framework. It discusses the potential for ecosystem service science and practice to inform several challenges facing living shorelines. The chapter argues that drawing upon ecosystem service concepts and tools to inform living shoreline science and implementation has the potential to advance the effectiveness and uptake of nature-based shoreline stabilization techniques. It discusses the evidence for five ecosystem services that living shorelines provide to coastal communities: food and livelihoods from fisheries, protection from coastal hazards for people and property, opportunities for recreation and tourism, carbon storage and sequestration, and human health and well-being. For living shorelines to continue to grow in popularity as alternatives or complements to traditional engineering approaches, project goals and outcomes must align with stakeholder values. Lack of awareness of nature-based approaches is another limiting factor in the use of living shorelines.2017
Inventory Tracks ‘Armoring’ of Beaches, InletsAn inventory of the tidal inlets and sandy beaches of North Carolina’s coast was released recently by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative. The inventory was compiled by Tracy Rice, a coastal geologist who is with Terwilliger Consulting Inc. in Pennsylvania, and covers the East Coast from Maine to the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Based on Google Earth data that show changes in the beaches and inlets from Hurricane Sandy, and by humans, from 2012 through 2015, it’s intended to be used by beach managers, local, state and federal agencies and others who are involved in coastal environmental and marine life issues.2017
Generalizing Ecological Effects of Shoreline ArmoringAcross Soft Sediment EnvironmentsWe developed a conceptual model that scales predicted ecological effects of shore-parallel armoring based on two axes: engineering purpose of structure (reduce/slow velocities or prevent/stop flow of waves and currents) and hydrodynamic energy (e.g., tides, currents, waves) of soft sediment environments. The results suggest that generalizations of ecological responses to armoring across a range of environmental contexts are possible and that the pro-posed conceptual model is useful for generating predictions of the direction and relative ecological impacts of shoreline armoring in soft sediment ecosystems.2017
The role of living shorelines as estuarine habitat conservation strategiesLiving shorelines typically involve the use of coastal habitats, such as wetlands, that have a natural capacity to stabilize the shore, restore or conserve habitat, and maintain coastal processes. They provide stability while still being dynamic components of the ecosystem, but due to their dynamic nature, careful designs and some maintenance will be required if habitat conservation is a goal. To fully understand their significance as habitat conservation strategies, systematic and standardized monitoring at both regional and national scales is vital to evaluate the evolution, persistence, and maximum achievable functionality (e.g., ecosystem service provision) of living shoreline habitats.2016
South Atlantic Living Shoreline Summit Summary ReportThe purpose of the 2016 South Atlantic Living Shoreline Summit isto share information on management, research,and education advancements made in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia,and Florida. The summit hopes to fosterdiscussion onthese topics within the regionand encourage learning from fellow practitioners and subject matter experts.2016
Future of our coasts: The potential for natural and hybrid infrastructure to enhance the resilience of our coastal communities, economies and ecosystemsHere we highlight strengths and weaknesses of the coastal protection benefits provided by built infrastructure, natural ecosystems, and the innovative opportunities to combine the two into hybrid approaches for coastal protection. We also examine some case studies where hybrid approaches are being implemented to improve coastal resilience as well as some of the policy challenges that can make implementation of these approaches more difficult. Based on this analysis, we conclude that coastal communities and other decision makers need better information in order to incorporate ecosystem protection and restoration into coastal resilience planning efforts. We highlight top priorities for research, investment in, and application of natural and hybrid approaches.2016
Natural and structural measures for shoreline stabilization brochureThis brochure presents a continuum of green to gray shoreline stabilization techniques, highlighting Living Shorelines, that help reduce coastal risks and improve resiliency though an integrated approach that draws from the full array of coastal risk reduction measures.2016
The effectiveness, costs and coastal protection benefits of natural and nature- based defensesThis paper addresses two issues critical for designing restoration projects for coastal protection: (i) a synthesis of the costs and benefits of projects designed for coastal protection (nature-based defenses) and (ii) analyses of the effectiveness of coastal habitats (natural defenses) in reducing wave heights and the biophysical parameters that influence this effectiveness. The analyses of field measurements show that coastal habitats have significant potential for reducing wave heights that varies by habitat and site. In general, coral reefs and salt-marshes have the highest overall potential. Habitat effectiveness is influenced by: a) the ratios of wave height-to-water depth and habitat width-to-wave-length in coral reefs; and b) the ratio of vegetation height-to-water depth in salt-marshes. 2016
A hybrid shoreline stabilization technique: Impact of modified intertidal reefs on marsh expansion and nekton habitat in the northern Gulf of Mexico In this study, we integrated permeable intertidal reef-breakwaters (also known as wave attenuation units or WAUs) and predominantly restored native Spartina alterniflora marsh vegetation to mitigate erosion along severely degrading shores of a narrow peninsula in the northern GoM. Particularly, we evaluated impacts of a large-scale WAU reef deployment on a range of physical and biological parameters including erosion mitigation (shoreline stabilization), facilitation of created marsh expansion and habitat provision to marsh-utilizing nekton. Our results of over 3 years suggest that, intertidal WAU reefs facilitate in created marsh expansion and the tidal openings between the reef complexes allow free movement of marsh-utilizing nekton fauna.2016
Fish and blue crab abundance along a riprap-sill hardened shoreline: comparisons with Spartina marsh and riprap shorelinesIn this study, density and diversity of fish and blue crabs Callinectes sapidus were compared via weekly sampling along a riprap-sill shoreline, a riprap shoreline, and a shoreline fringed with smooth cordgrass Spartina alterniflora marsh in the Delaware Coastal Bays during summer 2010. Temporally persistent differences in macrofaunal density and diversity were evident among the three shoreline types. In terms of fish density and diversity metrics, riprap-sill was more similar to the smooth cordgrass shoreline than to the traditional riprap shoreline. These results provide evidence for the biological advantage of riprap-sill over traditional riprap as a shoreline modification structure.2016
Living shorelines can enhance the nursery role of threatened estuarine habitats Living shorelines can enhance the nursery role of threatened estuarine habitats We quantified the effectiveness of (1) sills with landward marsh (a type of living shoreline that combines marsh plantings with an offshore low- profile breakwater), (2) natural salt marsh shorelines (control marshes), and (3) unvegetated bulk-headed shores in providing habitat for fish and crustaceans (nekton). Sills supported higher abundances and species diversity of fishes than unvegetated habitat adjacent to bulkheads, and even control marshes. Sills also supported higher cover of filter- feeding bivalves (a food resource and refuge habitat for nekton) than bulkheads or control marshes. These ecosystem- service enhancements were detected on shores with sills three or more years after construction, but not before. 2016
Living Shorelines in the Southeast: Research and Data GapsThis report synthesizes information relevant to living shorelines in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The report includes an overview of living shoreline types, descriptions of the physical, biological, and chemical characteristics of living shorelines in salt marshes and mangroves. The report also includes information on living shoreline projects in these 4 states and an annotated bibliography. 2016
Use of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for Coastal ResilienceUse of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for coastal resilienceThis report offers details regarding the use of natural and nature-based features (NNBF) to improve coastal resilience and was designed to support post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts under the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS). An integrative framework is offered herein that focuses on classifying NNBF, characterizing vulnerability, developing performance metrics, incorporating regional sediment management, monitoring and adaptively managing from a systems perspective, and addressing key policy challenges. As progress is made on these and other actions across the many organizations contributing to the use of NNBF, implementation of the full array of measures available will reduce the risks and enhance the resilience of the region's coastal systems.2015
Shoreline Change in the New River Estuary, North Carolina: Rates and ConsequencesAerial photography was used to determine rates of shoreline change in the New River Estuary (NRE), North Carolina, from 1956 to 2004. The NRE shoreline was digitized from aerial photographs taken in 1956, 1989, and 2004, and shoreline type was determined by ground-truthing the entire shoreline by small boat in 2009. Major shoreline type categories included swamp forest (6% of total), salt marsh (21%), sediment bank (53%), and modified/hardened (19%). Average rate of shoreline change across all shoreline types was a loss of ~13 m for any given point over the 48-year period covered by this study. Based on analysis of the sediment volume required to maintain marsh surface elevation with respect to sea level, we hypothesize that shoreline erosion plays a vital role in supporting growth and maintenance of downstream marshes.2015
Living Shorelines Engineering GuidelinesThe objective of this document is to provide guidance to the engineering and regulatory community on the engineering components involved in the design of living shorelines projects. The document is organized as follows. In the next section, the need for, and the purpose of the engineering guidelines is discussed. The subsequent section outlines the approach used to create the guidelines. Next a discussion of the parameters critical for the design of living shorelines projects is presented. The final section describes different methods for determining the design parameters. Two appendices are also included. The first outlines the application of the engineering guidelines to five common types of living shorelines projects, while the second contains excerpts from some of the design manuals referred to throughout the document.2015
Guidance for Considering the Use of Living ShorelinesThis guidance is intended to provide information on NOAA’s perspective and roles regarding living shorelines implementation. It starts by describing NOAA living shorelines guiding principles, then highlights NOAA’s role in providing science, tools, and training to help inform the selection of appropriate techniques. It also discusses the agency’s role in reviewing living shoreline projects, depending on their location and potential effect on habitats of concern to NOAA, such as critical habitat, essential fish habitat, or protected areas. This guidance also provides a conceptual framework of 12 questions to help NOAA and our partners when planning a shoreline stabilization effort.2015
Wave attenuation experiments over living shorelines over time: a wave tank study to assess recreational boating pressures This project evaluated the wave energy attenuation associated with living shorelines that contained Crassostrea virginica (eastern oyster) and/or Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) in a wave tank. Four living shoreline techniques were assessed, including a control (sediment only), oysters alone, cordgrass alone, and a combination of oysters plus cordgrass. Time since deployment (newly deployed, one-year after deployment) was also assessed to see how wave energy attenuation changed with natural oyster recruitment and plant growth. All one-year old treatments attenuated significantly more energy than newly-deployed treatments. The combination of one-year old S. alterniflora plus live C. virginica was the most effective as this treatment reduced 67 % of the wave energy created by a single recreational boat wake, compared to bare sediment. 2015
Living Shorelines from Barriers to OpportunitiesThe focus of this report is an assessment of institutional barriers preventing broader use of living shorelines. The majority of this report is organized around three topics necessary to assess the institutional barriers preventing the broader use of living shorelines: background information about the current state of living shorelines use; barriers preventing the broader use of living shorelines; and recommended strategies to overcome the barriers.2015
Integrated modeling framework to quantify the coastal protection services supplied by vegetationWe propose an integrated modeling approach for quantifying how vegetation modifies nearshore processes—including the attenuation of wave height, mean and total water level—and reduces shoreline erosion during storms. We apply the model to idealized seagrass-sand and mangrove-mud cases, and illustrate its potential by quantifying how those habitats reduce water levels and sediment loss beyond what would be observed in the absence of vegetation. The integrated modeling approach provides an efficient way to quantify the coastal protection services supplied by vegetation and highlights specific research needs for improved representations of the ways in which vegetation modifies wave-induced processes.2015
Ecological value of submerged breakwaters for habitat enhancement on a residential scaleWe experimentally investigated the habitat value of two configurations of submerged breakwaters constructed along an eroding shoreline in northwest Mobile Bay, AL (USA). Breakwaters comprised of bagged oyster shell or Reef Ball™ concrete domes were built by a community-based restoration effort. Post-deployment monitoring found that: bagged oyster breakwaters supported much higher densities of live ribbed mussels than Reef Ball breakwaters; both breakwater configurations supported increased species richness of juvenile and smaller fishes compared to controls; and that larger fishes did not appear to be affected by breakwater presence. Our study demonstrates that ecologically degraded shorelines can be augmented with small-scale breakwaters at reasonable cost and that these complex structures can serve as habitat for filter-feeding bivalves, mobile invertebrates, and young fishes. 2015
Effects of shoreline hardening on nitrogen processing in estuarine marshes of the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast We measured the effects of bulkheads on sediment nitrogen fluxes, including denitrification (DEN), at three representative estuarine shoreline types: natural marsh (no bulkhead), bulkhead without marsh, and bulkheads with marshes of varying widths. Sediment cores were taken mid-marsh or, 2 m seaward of bulkhead in sites lacking marsh in northern, central and southern coastal regions of North Carolina. Results indicated that bulkheads do not directly affect nitrogen processing, but indirectly reduce cycling rates through marsh loss.2015
Groundwater nitrogen processing in Northern Gulf of Mexico restored marshesGroundwater nitrogen processing was examined in a restored black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) marsh to assess its potential for removing land-derived nitrogen pollution. Two restoration designs, one initially planted at 50% cover and the other one at 100% cover, were compared with non-vegetated controls. The results suggest that restoring marshes by planting 50% of the area may be a more cost-effective restoration design in terms of mitigating land-derived nutrient pollution than planting 100% of the area since it requires less effort and cost while removing similar quantities of N.2015
Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction FeaturesThis EDF report represents the review of the state of knowledge on the performance of natural and nature-based infrastructure as compiled from existing literature and participant input obtained during an expert workshop. Table 1 provides an accessible summary of the most current state of understanding of the risk reduction performance of natural infrastructure. 2015


Restoration Atlas: NOAA

The interactive Restoration Atlas will help you find habitat restoration projects, including living shorelines throughout the nation —search for projects by habitat type, location, or congressional district.

The NOAA Restoration Center conducts restoration projects all over the country, improving habitat for fish and other wildlife. Our interactive Restoration Atlas will help you find projects near you—search for projects by habitat type, location, or congressional district.


Below are examples of living shoreline projects in the southeastern states of North Carolina, South Caroline, Georgia, and Florida. For more case studies like these, please see GCRC’s report, “Living Shorelines in the Southeast: Research and Data Gaps.”

Living Shoreline Projects from North Carolina

Project NameProject Description
Living Shoreline Construction Begins at Oriental’s Whittaker PointeThe living shoreline at Whittaker Pointe in Oriental, NC will consist of granite rocks placed parallel to the peninsula’s shoreline. Loose and bagged recycled oyster shells will be placed by volunteers to protect the Whittaker Creek side of the peninsula and the site will be planted with native grasses and sedges. The living shoreline will slow down and reduce the impacts of waves, thereby restoring the marsh habitat that was lost and reducing further erosion. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer 2020.
Airlie Gardens Salt Marsh Restoration Project Phase 1 of this project, involved clearing years of debris from the degraded shoreline, creating a wetland buffer area, and planting the shoreline with native vegetation. This project restored of 0.25 acres of wetland area. During Phase II, volunteers placed over 1,800 shell bags containing recycled oyster shells to create 4,000 square feet of oyster reef habitat along the Bradley Creek shoreline. One thousand S. alterniflora seedlings were then planted behind the reef to enhance the existing saltmarsh buffer.
Albemarle-Pamlico PeninsulaThis project consisted of the construction of 400 feet of oyster shell bag reefs, 400 feet of marl reefs, three ditch plugs, a culvert upgrade and replacement, management of Phragmites australis, and the planting of over 40 acres of salt-tolerant hardwoods. The project resulted in 0.5 acres of restored oyster reef which are expected to: improve water quality by acting as a natural filter; create habitat for oysters, fish and other marine animals; reduce erosion by buffering coastal lands against wave action; and provide a natural alternative to hardened shorelines.
Bogue Sound Shoreline Restoration500 linear feet of shoreline were stabilized through the placement of granite, marl and other alternative materials. In addition, 0.46 acres of wetland and 0.05 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation were planted.
Bradley Oaks Shoreline Restoration DemonstrationThis project was a combination of shoreline stabilization and the cultivation of an upland native vegetation buffer. The project included the use of the BIOLOG treatment (a natural alternative to bulkheads) with marsh plantings along approximately 400 feet of shoreline.
Carteret Community CollegeOyster shell; oyster domes; oyster cultch bags; stone; submerged aquatic vegetation; marsh vegetation
Description: This multi-faceted project involves: (1) restoration of wetland and intertidal habitat along ~1,000 linear feet of shoreline; (2) construction of offshore gapped breakwaters and stone sills for erosion control; (3) planting of submerged aquatic vegetation; (4) construction of a created wetland to help treat stormwater runoff from adjacent parking areas and roads; and (5) the placement of concrete oyster reef domes and oyster cultch bags as experimental sills.
Columbia Shoreline RestorationThe North Carolina Coastal Foundation constructed a stone sill and planted marsh vegetation on a private landowner’s property. The project restored 425 linear feet of shoreline and 3,500 marsh seedlings were planted behind the sill, restoring 0.4 acres of tidal marsh.
Duke University Marine Laboratory For this project, 260 feet of degraded asbestos bulkhead at the Duke University Marine Lab was removed, and more than 700 feet of marsh along Bogue Sound was restored to create a viable oyster reef. In addition to the creation of 0.25 acres of tidal marsh, a vegetated swale and berm were constructed along the adjoining upland in order to intercept storm water from the road and university buildings and encourage filtration. Several hundred live oysters were removed from the site before construction and replaced to form reefs after the bulkhead was removed.
Durant’s PointThis project involved stabilizing 240 feet of eroding shore through construction of a low-profile granite sill and creation of 1.2 acres of marsh habitat through the installation of Spartina plants.
Emerald Isle Property Shoreline RestorationTo encourage the growth of marsh in the area and to buffer the shoreline during periods of high wakes or storm activity, four stone groins were installed to hold and trap sand, creating stable cells to support newly planted marsh habitat. After installation of the groins, volunteers planted more than 3000 salt marsh plants to restore 0.1 acres of tidal wetland habitat.
Green Property Shoreline RestorationA stone sill was constructed along the entire 400-foot shoreline. An environmental science class from Carteret Community College then planted approximately 2000 wetland plants on the shoreline resulting in the restoration of 0.2 acres of tidal wetland habitat.
Ice Plant IslandAn 810-foot stone sill and revetment was constructed in order to restore one half acre of coastal marsh, protect 3.6 acres of coastal marsh fringe, and halt further erosion. Enhancement of the upland buffer was completed with the planting of 100 Atlantic white cedar, 1,000 pine trees and 200 live oaks. The project was completed after the planting of 3,000 salt marsh plants behind the stone sill.
Jones IslandThe overall goals of the project were to reestablish fringing marsh along the shoreline and to enhance oyster growth in waters just offshore. To accomplish this, 4,000 oyster shell bags were placed on the north side of the island forming temporary shoreline sills that would act to reduce wave-induced shoreline and marsh erosion. In addition to the creation of 3 acres of oyster reef/shell bottom habitat, a total of 12,000 smooth cordgrass plugs were planted, restoring 0.3 acres of salt marsh habitat.
Morris LandingA 600-foot stone and oyster shell bag sill was installed along the shoreline, and marsh habitat was restored behind the sill. In addition, 16,000 bushels of oyster shell were deposited to create oyster reefs in Stump Sound. These reefs have been seeded with juvenile oysters to help increase the oyster population on the newly-created reefs.
Nags Head Oyster Restoration and Shoreline ProtectionThis project restored a highly eroding high-bank shoreline and marsh through construction of fringing oyster reef using shell bags followed by seeding over with native widgeon grass and plantings. Approximately 0.1 acres of oyster reef, 0.25 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation, and 0.5 acres of wetlands and uplands were restored.
North Carolina Center for the Advancement of TeachingAn offshore sill was constructed of granite along 725 feet of the campus’ shoreline. Sand fill was brought in for surface grading, and over an acre of salt marsh was created through planting of S. alterniflora, S. patens, and J. roemericanus. Upland vegetation was also planted to minimize blowing sand.
Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve (Carrot Island)Twenty small patch reefs across five unique landscapes were constructed. Four 60-bushel reefs were built immediately adjacent to marsh scarps, while another six 60-bushel reefs were built on marsh ramp shorelines. Within the network of marsh creeks, eight more 60-bushel reefs were constructed: four reefs at the entrances of secondary tributaries, and four reefs along the banks of the primary creek (and at least 20 miles from a secondary creek). In addition, 3 long sills (2 shorter, 1 longer) were constructed that extend across ~230 miles of shoreline (interrupted by ~ 30 mile gaps among the three sills). Following sill construction, about 3,000 young S. alterniflora plants were planted.
Sneads Ferry Shoreline RestorationThe stabilization of 250 linear feet of eroding coastal marsh through the placement of marl and granite, and the seeding of oyster clutch and larvae, resulted in the restoration of 0.1 acre of tidal wetland, and protection of an additional 0.5 acres tidal wetland and 0.1 acre of oyster habitat.
Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge Shoreline Oyster Restoration ProjectThis project restored 0.23 acres of oyster/shell bottom habitat adjacent to Bell Island Fishing Pier in Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge through construction of segmented shoreline oyster reefs using marl (limestone), which was deployed along 600 linear feet of eroding shoreline. The resultant reefs measured 0.23 acres (approximately 660 feet by 15 feet total).

Living Shoreline Projects from South Carolina

Project NameProject Description
ACE Basin NERR Living Shorelines and Coastal Resilience StrategyBetween April 2013 and May 2015, this project led to 53 reef-building events at 38 discrete locations through the ACE Basin NERR, through the deployment of four different reef substrates (loose oyster shell (11 sites), bagged oyster shell (27 sites), concrete oyster castles (8 sites), and re-purposed cement crab traps (7 sites)), matched to site characteristics. All four substrates were placed directly on the shore in front of marsh vegetation. Through the deployments of these four reef substrates, this project led to the protection of 9,256 linear feet (> 1.7 miles) of shoreline.
City of Charleston Shoreline Restoration – Plymouth Park ShorelineThis project, when implemented, will reduce erosion along 275 feet of eroding shoreline and demonstrate methods of stabilizing eroding shorelines, revitalizing degraded salt marsh, and increasing fisheries habitat all in recreational areas with high value to the public.
City of Charleston Shoreline Restoration –Daniel Island TrailThis project will demonstrate methods of stabilizing eroding shorelines, revitalize a degraded salt marsh, and increase fisheries habitat. At this site, archaeological remnants of a post-Civil War freedman’s settlement will be protected by an oyster reef and the sediment that collects behind it facilitating the colonization and spread of marsh grass.
Expansion of Oyster Reef Enhancement on Jeremy IslandOyster castle blocks (concrete, limestone, crushed shell and pozzolan)
Description: The South Carolina Chapter of the Conservancy and SC DNR evaluated the effectiveness of concrete “oyster castles” to support oyster reef habitat development at two field sites around Jeremy Island during monitoring from 2011 – 2013. Reef restoration work from 2009 that showed the novel restoration structures, oyster castles, can successfully recruit larval oysters. This project resulted in the creation of an additional 0.01 acres of oyster reef built from 2 arrays of 295 stacked castles in 2011. The project demonstrated that oyster castles can provide shoreline stabilization when deployed in a single, linear three-dimensional configuration.
Goldbug IslandOyster castle blocks (concrete, limestone, crushed shell and pozzolan); wood; bagged (recycled) oyster shells
Description: The Goldbug Island Living Shoreline project consists of a 240′ long reef and is made of wooden pallets, oyster castles, cement blocks, and bagged shell to stabilize marsh edge. Pallets were wrapped in geotextile fabric before deployment and then six oyster castles, three cement blocks and nine bags of shell were placed on top of each pallet. The reef was designed by CH2M so materials are elevated out of the mud, promote optimal oyster growth, and attenuate wave energy. All materials have all been used before, but never in this combination. TNC will be monitoring water quality, oyster recruitment, oyster growth and marsh vegetation growth. SCDNR will be assessing sediment composition and accretion behind the reef. This project is part of a two-year grant from Wildlife Conservation Society where TNC partnered with Lowcountry Land Trust to install and monitor living shoreline pilot projects adjacent to privately conserved coastal properties.
Oak Point, Wadmalaw IslandThe Oak Point Living Shoreline project is 100′ long and made of bagged shell to stabilize marsh edge and support habitat development. The reef is four rows of bagged shell; the top row of bags is parallel to shoreline (1 bag deep) and the three rows below are perpendicular to shoreline with a double layer of bagged shell. Monitoring by the SCDNR Geological Survey showed sediments accreted quickly behind and on the reef materials. However, sedimentation precluded oyster recruitment and growth.
Palmetto Plantation RestorationThe Palmetto Plantation Oyster Castle Reef was installed in August 2012 by Boeing employees on the northwest bank of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) northeast of McClellanville, SC. The reef is approximately 18m x 1.75m in dimension at the base and approximately 0.5m high. The reef is 60 blocks long (parallel to the shore) and 6 blocks wide at the base and comprises four total stacked levels. The project is Site surveys, including shoreline change analyses, sediment grainsize distributions, and oyster recruitment observations, were conducted from June 2012 through October 2013 by the College of Charleston to address the overall goal of enhancing oyster reefs in this area while stabilizing the adjacent shoreline. This goal was accomplished with the reef installation project.
South Carolina Oyster ReefsNOAA’s Restoration Center worked with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to implement an oyster restoration project along the coast of South Carolina through multiple small-scale demonstration projects. This project focused on restoring oyster habitat bordering salt marsh in tidal creeks and studied how intact oyster habitats can stabilize and control fringing marsh and mud bank erosion. Recycled oyster shell and stabilizing mesh was used to establish suitable substrate for reef development. Over a four year period this program has constructed a total of 98 volunteer-built reefs at 28 sites along the South Carolina coast.
Stono River – Phase I (James Island County Park Oyster Restoration)For a second year, Boeing partnered with TNC’s South Carolina Chapter to install an oyster reef project around Charleston. The Conservancy partnered with Boeing, Coastal Expeditions and the Charleston County Parks & Recreation to install a continuous oyster reef configuration using oyster castle blocks on the Stono River. The reef was constructed using 600 blocks placed into three linear shapes parallel to the shoreline. The oyster castles reefs were monitored by College of Charleston interns for 12 months. Oysters have encrusted the reef and continue to grow around the castle blocks. The back side of the single configurations has accumulated sediments and is covering oysters that were growing on the lower levels of the oyster castle blocks. This was an intended result and in the spring of 2015 natural S. alterniflora has established itself behind the back, center portion of the front linear reef.
Tibwin Creek, Francis Marion National ForestIn 2009, the Conservancy partnered with SC DNR SCORE to help create an oyster reef in Tibwin Creek within the boundaries of the Francis Marion National Forest using mesh bags of oyster shells layered on untreated wood pallets. Coir logs were installed on the landward side of the reef to reduce sedimentation over the shells from the eroding shoreline. The new reef covers 25 square meters, connecting two existing natural reefs.

Living Shoreline Projects from Georgia

Project NameProject Description
Bellville Boat Ramp, McIntosh CountyOne hundred mesh bags of oyster shells were placed on a firm substrate along a stretch of an eroding vegetative edge of the river adjacent to the boat ramp. Live oak tree limbs, downed by a hurricane, were wrapped with agricultural fencing to create 125 oak bundles. Subsequently, 100 oyster spat sticks were constructed by covering 6-foot bamboo poles with resin and then dusted with cement. Researchers placed two rows of oak bundles along the intertidal zone and staked them down with spat sticks. The space between the rows was filled with the remaining spat sticks. The oyster reefs were built using both recycled oyster shell and non-traditional cultch material such as bundled wood, bamboo spat sticks, and fish attracting devices that have proven to work as oyster habitat.
Burton 4-H Center, Tybee IslandUGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant recently completed the construction and installation of the base layer for a living shoreline project at the Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island. The goals of this project are to stabilize an eroding bank at the Burton 4-H Center and increase the amount of oyster and marsh habitat in Horse Pen Creek. The final layer of the shoreline will be installed in 2016.
The Lodge, Little St. Simons IslandThis project removed a failing bulkhead on Little St. Simons Island and installed a 285-foot living shoreline in its place to provide stream bank stabilization, habitat for eastern oysters, and essential fish habitat. The project involved the shaping of the embankment and the application of oyster bags, recycled concrete, and native plants. The plan also involved encasing the first layer of oyster bags in geo-grid (an extremely durable mesh that is a structural component in road construction) in order to create flexible cohesion and structural integrity. The geo-grid was designed to be anchored into the embankment in order to prevent the downward subsidence of materials. Islands of intertidal vegetation were planted throughout the shoreline. Approximately 25 plant species totaling more than 1,500 individual plants were installed along the intertidal and upper transitional zone of the project site.
Ashantilly – Sapelo IslandThe site design and construction at Ashantilly consisted of grading the eroding embankment and placing a granite toe on the lower intertidal embankment for added support. Mesh bags of used oyster shells were then arranged in two layers along a 370-foot section of the creek bank and secured with non-treated pine stakes. Native marsh plants as well as upper transitional zone plants were also installed.
Long Tabby – Sapelo IslandAt the Long Tabby site, gabion baskets (also called reno-mattresses) made of chain-linked welded steel measuring 6 feet by 12 feet were filled with a combination of bags of shell, loose shell, and rock. The cages were then embedded along 230 feet of creek bank in an alternating pattern.

Living Shoreline Projects from Florida

Project NameProject Description
Bayfront Park, SarasotaIn 2014, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, in partnership with the City of Sarasota, created a living shoreline along Bayfront Park in downtown Sarasota. The project featured 150 feet of native plants within three tidal zones (lower, middle and high) intended to stabilize sediments and provide intertidal habitat. The project was designed to showcase the natural beauty and benefits of these alternatives to more traditional hardened (sea walls) shorelines. An interactive sign provided the many bayfront strollers with information on the benefits of living shorelines and a link to the SBEP website to learn more about these alternatives to hardened shorelines and how to go about considering one for themselves.
Canaveral National SeashoreThis project involved planting of emergent vegetation in the site’s intertidal zone, deploying bags of oyster shells seaward of the cordgrass, and placing oyster restoration mats seaward of the bags. Plantings consisted of S. alterniflora in the mid-intertidal zone and Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove) and Avicennia germinans (black mangrove) in the upper intertidal zone.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument Living Shoreline ProjectIn 2010, upon a recommendation from National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Park Service designed a living shoreline approach that included constructing a subtidal sheet piling wall topped and fronted with coquina rock and existing oyster rubble to act as a breakwater. The landward edge of this sediment trap was planted with smooth cordgrass to accrete sediment on the shoreline and buffer the seawall from future erosion.
Escambia BayIn this project, coir logs made of coconut fiber were installed to help stabilize the sediment prior to planting. The fetch was between one and three miles, so the site needed a little more stabilization than plants alone could provide. Once secured, coir logs remain in place until they biodegrade, which happens in about one to three years. They stabilize until natural sedimentation occurs, and plants take over the stabilization role.
Indian River Lagoon Mangrove RestorationMangroves and other native wetland and upland plants were planted and invasive Brazilian pepper trees were removed by volunteers at six different sites on the Indian River Lagoon shoreline. This project helped to trap sediment and filter pollution, thus preventing erosion and improving water quality.
Loblolly Community Oyster Reef and Living Shorelines ProjectA living shoreline breakwater was constructed by the community of Loblolly and mangrove seedlings were planted behind it. Oyster shell bags were added to the base of the breakwater to encourage oyster settlement. Cultch bag placement was performed by volunteers.
Lost River Preserve RestorationThis project restored 70 acres of coastal habitat through: removal of exotic Brazilian pepper and Australian pine; re-grading the disturbed portions of the site into a freshwater and estuarine marsh and planting marsh vegetation; and increasing daily tidal exchange by installing a large box culvert under the adjacent county road. This project resulted in the restoration of 23 acres of upland habitat; 4 acres of pond habitat; 8 acres of freshwater wetland habitat; 14 acres of tidal wetland habitat; and 21 acres of mangrove habitat.
MacDill Airforce Base Salt Marsh and Oyster RestorationNOAA Fisheries partnered with MacDill Air Force Base and Tampa Bay Watch to restore nearly one acre of oyster habitat and salt marsh in northeast Tampa Bay. The restoration site is located along a point of land at the Air Force base that is experiencing high rates of erosion due to wave energy. Volunteers planted approximately 2,700 salt marsh grass plugs and 500 mangroves along the shoreline immediately behind the created oyster reef.
Restoration of Intertidal Reefs in Mosquito LagoonThis project restored 12 intertidal oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve and Canaveral National Seashore. To increase the acreage of live intertidal oyster reefs, 2,297 oyster mats were constructed and placed in the intertidal area to establish new substrates for oyster settlement. Oyster shell mats made up of 36 oyster shells were attached vertically to a small mesh mat with zip ties. The mats were later attached to each other in the water, forming a large quilt-like structure. The oyster reef sites were prepared and leveled to an appropriate elevation, the mats were deployed on site, and then the reefs were monitored for oyster growth. During Phase II of the project, an additional 24-acres of reef was restored by deploying oyster mats to help stabilize the intertidal reef system.
Naval Support Activities Shoreline Restoration Project in St. Andrews BayOver 15,000 square feet of emergent vegetation along the shoreline were planted with 25,000 native marsh plants, and 193 oyster reefs were constructed from loose, unconsolidated shell as part of this project. The creation of the 0.5 acre marsh will provide additional shoreline protection and nursery habitat for over 70 % of commercial and recreational finfish and shellfish species.
North Peninsula State Park Saltmarsh RestorationThis project restored and enhanced approximately 9 acres of estuarine saltmarsh within the North Peninsula State Park in northeast Florida. The project provided direct restoration to 2 acres of historic saltmarsh habitat and enhanced an additional 7 acres of habitat. This project focused on the removal of exotic invasive species, restoration of the natural wetland elevation of the site, and stabilization of the shoreline edge habitat through planting of low marsh vegetation. The project also provided nursery habitat benefits to a variety of commercially and recreationally important fisheries species, as well as numerous other estuarine organisms.
Oleta River State Park Wetlands Restoration (Phase II) This project restored a 30-acre wetland along the Oleta River through removal of solid waste, soils, and exotic vegetation, the placement of grading and fill, stabilization of the shoreline, and the planting of native wetland vegetation. Abandoned concrete structures such as seawalls and fill pads were removed, while the concrete debris was moved to the canal entrance. Mangroves were planted by volunteers in the final phase of restoration.
St. Andrew Bay Shoreline RestorationA pilot study was conducted to demonstrate how salt marsh grasses were an effective shoreline stabilizer for private property owners. The goal was to encourage citizens facing bulkhead and seawall replacement to consider restoring their natural shoreline instead. Contractors worked with private land owners to remove failing bulkheads and volunteers contributed all of the labor required to transplant salt marsh grasses.
St. Lucie Estuary Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration ProjectTwo acres of oyster reef habitat were restored and stretches of living shoreline were created in the St. Lucie Estuary. In addition, Martin County was able to increase the constructed oyster reef acreage to 4.52 acres during the summer of 2013.
Snook Islands Natural Area Habitat Enhancement ProjectApproximately 1.2 million cubic yards of spoil were mined and used to raise the elevation of a deep dredged hole created in 1925. Project construction resulted in creation of 10 acres of red mangroves, 2.8 acres of Spartina marsh, 2.3 acres of oyster reef, and nearly 50 acres of seagrass recruitment area. Constructing the offshore mangrove islands and limestone oyster reefs created valuable fish and wildlife habitat and provided a buffer against waves and boat wakes precluding the need to construct a new seawall for shoreline protection.
Virginia Key North Point Ecosystem Restoration ProjectThe restoration will involve the selective clearing and grubbing of all non-native vegetation, the creation of beach dune and coastal hammock habitat by moving and grading existing fill, the enhancement of an existing isolated freshwater wetland on-site through non-native vegetation eradication and control, and the planting of appropriate native vegetation.