Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Estuaries and Coasts
Human population growth and sea-level rise are increasing the demand for protection of coastal property against shoreline erosion. Living shorelines are designed to provide shoreline protection and are constructed or reinforced using natural elements. While living shorelines are gaining popularity with homeowners, their ability to provide ecological services (e.g., habitat provision and trophic transfer) is not well understood, and information is needed to improve coastal and resource management decision-making. We examined benthic community responses to living shorelines in two case-study subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay using a before-after control-impact study design. At Windy Hill, a bulkhead was removed and replaced by three tombolos, sand fill, and native marsh vegetation. At Lynnhaven, 25 m of eroding marsh shoreline was stabilized with coir logs, sand fill, and native marsh vegetation. Communities of large (> 3 mm) infauna adjacent to living shorelines at both locations tended to increase in biomass by the end of the study period. Community compositions changed significantly following living shoreline construction at Windy Hill, reflecting a trend toward higher density and biomass of large bivalves at living shorelines compared to pre-construction. Increasing trends in density and biomass of clams and simultaneously decreasing density and decreasing trends in biomass of polychaetes suggest a transition toward stable infaunal communities at living shorelines over time, though longer-term studies are warranted.
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This research was funded by a grant to R. Seitz from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Center for Sponsored Coastal and Ocean Research (NA09NOS4780221), and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. T. Davenport also received support from NSF GK-12 (DGE-0840804) and the 2010 Anchor QEA Scholarship.
Davenport, Theresa M.; Seitz, Rochelle D.; Knick, Kathleen E.; and Jackson, Nina, Living Shorelines Support Nearshore Benthic Communities in Upper and Lower Chesapeake Bay (2018). Estuaries and Coasts, 41, 197-206.