A living shoreline is a shoreline management option that uses living plants, recycled oyster shells, fossilized oyster shell, sand fill, or a combination of natural structures with riprap or offshore breakwaters to protect property from erosion. Living shorelines present an ecological and economic alternative that is viable for low-erosional settings in Choctawhatchee Bay.
In Choctawhatchee Bay, many property owners use hardened structures such as sea walls, riprap, groins and bulkheads (as opposed to Living Shorelines) to stabilize and protect waterfront property from erosion caused by wind and wave action. While these “hard” solutions may prevent some localized shoreline erosion, they often act to increase erosion by reflecting wave energy and altering natural sediment movement. Vertical shoreline structures eliminate the varying water depths, wave attenuation and diverse habitat types associated with natural, gradually sloping beaches, seagrass meadows and salt marshes. Loss of nursery, feeding and refuge habitats leads to loss of vital estuarine species.
CBA’s living shoreline initiative is mainly comprised of two components: oyster shell breakwaters (artificial reefs) and native shoreline grass plantings. Combined, the reefs and shoreline grasses help to reduce shoreline erosion, act as habitat for marine-life, filter stormwater run-off, and improve water clarity and water quality in Choctawhatchee Bay. CBA uses recycled oyster shell to construct artificial reefs that act as a breakwater for impeding erosion.
The oyster reefs not only benefit the stability of the shoreline they are protecting, but they also serve as habitat for intertidal marine life. Many creatures from Choctawhatchee Bay call our reefs their home, including live oysters! Oyster larvae float along in the current and attach themselves to like-surfaces, slowly populating the artificial reef. Oysters are filter-feeders: one adult oyster is capable of filtering 50 gallons of water in one single day. As hundreds of oysters grow on the reef, they improve the water clarity and water quality, benefitting the entire Bay. To stabilize the shoreline, CBA plants smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). Native shoreline grass such as smooth cordgrass acts as a filter for stormwater run-off, in addition to providing habitat for marine-life and birds.
CBA’s hands-on environmental education program, Grasses In Classes, allows elementary-age youth to fulfill the role of repopulating native shoreline grass by growing, acclimating, monitoring, and planting the smooth cordgrass. In combination with the recycled oyster shell reefs, the native cordgrass restores the degraded shoreline and completes CBA’s living shoreline initiative.
Click here or the image below for full map of living shoreline projects.