Does Living Shoreline Performance Depend on Design?

Principal Investigator:

Cindy Palinkas

Start/End Year:

2022 - 2024


Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator:

Lorie Staver, Horn Point Laboratory, UMCES


Strategic focus area:

Resilient communities and economies


Shoreline erosion is a major issue globally and in Chesapeake Bay, leading to increased shoreline-stabilization efforts. Recent efforts have focused on living shorelines living shorelines as the preferred method to reduce erosion, but questions remain regarding their effectiveness and potential impacts to adjacent shallow-water benthic habitats over the long term (~10 years). These are pressing management issues in the Chesapeake Bay, where two key open questions challenge widespread adoption of living shorelines: 1) how well living shorelines reduce erosion and persist over time; and 2) how installation impacts SAV habitat and distributions over time. While we have examined these questions at some Chesapeake Bay sites, we have been limited to one design type. This project seeks to expand this work to the most common design in Chesapeake Bay (marsh fringe with adjacent segmented sills), providing a robust framework within which to compare the effect of design on living shoreline performance. We will conduct GIS analyses of fetch, shoreline erosion rates before and after installation, and SAV trends from 1984-present at as many sites as possible, chosen with guidance from managers. We will conduct field surveys of elevation, sediment characteristics (grain size, organic content, accretion rates), and vegetation (species, canopy height, stem density) at 8 sites. Project results and insights will be integrated to co-produce effective end products with managers and other groups. We have assembled an Advisory Team with representatives from the Maryland state agencies most involved in shoreline management, as well as a practitioner that designs and installs living shorelines; we will explore adding members to this team with this core group. We will work with Maryland Sea Grant extension to communicate project insights to property owners, and we propose a Living Shoreline Summit to integrate insights with regional scientific and management communities.

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