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What is a living shoreline?

A protected and stabilized shoreline that is made of natural materials such as plants, sand, or rock.

an infographic that illustrates how living shorelines support resilient communities

Living shorelines use plants or other natural elements to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, or tributaries. Infographic Text

Living shorelines are a green infrastructure technique using native vegetation alone or in combination with low sills to stabilize the shoreline. Living shorelines provide a natural alternative to ‘hard’ shoreline stabilization methods like rip rap or bulkheads, and provide numerous benefits including nutrient pollution remediation, essential fish habitat structure, and buffering of shorelines from waves and storms. Research indicates that living shorelines are more resilient than bulkheads in protecting against the effects of hurricanes.

Infographic Text

Living Shorelines Support Resilient Communities

Living shorelines use plants or other natural elements — sometimes in combination with harder shoreline structures — to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, and tributaries.

  • One square mile of salt marsh stores the carbon equivalent of 76,000 gal of gas annually.
  • Marshes trap sediments from tidal waters, allowing them to grow in elevation as sea level rises.
  • Living shorelines improve water quality, provide fisheries habitat, increase biodiversity, and promote recreation.
  • Marshes and oyster reefs act as natural barriers to waves. 15 ft of marsh can absorb 50% of incoming wave energy.
  • Living shorelines are more resilient against storms than bulkheads.
  • 33% of shorelines in the U.S. will be hardened by 2100, decreasing fisheries habitat and biodiversity.
  • Hard shoreline structures like bulkheads prevent natural marsh migration and may create seaward erosion.