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Living Shoreline Research featured in Estuaries and Coasts Special Issue

Published on: 02/08/2018
Primary Contact(s): elizabeth.turner@noaa.gov

The journal Estuaries and Coasts highlighted several papers from the NCCOS project “Influence of Shoreline Changes on Chesapeake and Delmarva Bay Ecosystems” in a special virtual issue. Virtual Issues collect key articles on cutting edge topics already published in the journal during the past year. This special issue considers the interacting impacts of coastal land use and shoreline armoring on estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems.

The 13 research papers address the effects of different watershed land uses (development, agricultural, forested) and different man-made shoreline types (bulkhead, riprap) compared to natural shorelines (beaches, natural wetlands, wetlands dominated by the invasive species Phragmites) on ecosystem properties and on key natural resources. A final paper presents efforts to integrate research and management.

Examples of shorelines dominated by (a) bulkhead, (b) riprap revetment, (c) beach, (d) natural wetland, (e) Phragmites australis wetland, and (f) living shoreline. Photo of the living shoreline was taken 5 years after construction. The poles are the remnants of the temporary fencing installed to protect the wetland plants from goose predation after planting and to deter boats from landing on the beach. (Credit D. Prosser [USGS], T. Jordan [SERC], et al.)

Project scientists found that hardened shorelines negatively affect small fish, invertebrates such as oysters and crabs, and submerged aquatic vegetation. The abundance of crabs, bivalves such as clams and oysters, and many fish species declined as the amount of hardened shoreline increased. The team also found that hardened shorelines decreased the size, density, and diversity of submerged aquatic vegetation.

Hardened shorelines with land development facilitated the spread of the non-native Phragmites reed. Hardened shorelines and shorelines invaded by Phragmites showed significantly less spawning by Atlantic silversides, an important small fish that many larger fish rely on for food. Shoreline hardening and invasive Phragmites also harm waterbirds in these estuarine systems.

The participation of a management advisory group on this project improved translation of the results, now incorporated into discussions of the Chesapeake Bay Goal Implementation Teams and other regional management efforts.

Citation (Introduction to Special Issue): Prosser, Diann J., Thomas E. Jordan, Jessica L. Nagel, Rochelle D. Seitz, Donald E. Weller, and Dennis F. Whigham. 2018. Impacts of Coastal Land Use and Shoreline Armoring on Estuarine Ecosystems: an Introduction to a Special Issue. Estuaries and Coasts 41, 2–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-017-0331-1.


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