Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date









Nature-based shoreline protection provides a welcome class of adaptations to promote ecological resilience in the face of climate change. Along coastlines, living shorelines are among the preferred adaptation strategies to both reduce erosion and provide ecological functions. As an alternative to shoreline armoring, living shorelines are viewed favorably among coastal managers and some private property owners, but they have yet to undergo a thorough examination of how their levels of ecosystem functions compare to their closest natural counterpart: fringing marshes. Here, we provide a synthesis of results from a multi-year, large-spatial-scale study in which we compared numerous ecological metrics (including habitat provision for fish, invertebrates, diamondback terrapin, and birds, nutrient and carbon storage, and plant productivity) measured in thirteen pairs of living shorelines and natural fringing marshes throughout coastal Virginia, USA. Living shorelines were composed of marshes created by bank grading, placement of sand fill for proper elevations, and planting of S. alterniflora and S. patens, as well as placement of a stone sill seaward and parallel to the marsh to serve as a wave break. Overall, we found that living shorelines were functionally equivalent to natural marshes in nearly all measured aspects, except for a lag in soil composition due to construction of living shoreline marshes with clean, low-organic sands. These data support the prioritization of living shorelines as a coastal adaptation strategy.


doi: 10.7717/peerj.11815


Nekton, Plants, Invertebrates, Birds, Terrapin, Soils, Nature-based shoreline protection

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.