Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Advantages and Disadvantages of Soft Shoreline Stabilization


Advantages and Disadvantages of Soft Shoreline Stabilization

Alternative soft stabilization approaches can offer many benefits over typical hard stabilization structures. Often these approaches are referred to as living shorelines because they offer added ecological benefits. Some of the benefits of soft stabilization approaches include:

  • maintaining natural shoreline dynamics and healthy sand movement across a coastal cell;
  • trapping sand to rebuild eroded shorelines or maintain current shoreline form;
  • providing or enhancing important shoreline habitat;
  • reducing wave energy impacts at or seaward of the shoreline;
  • absorbing storm surge and floodwaters;
  • filtering nutrients and other pollutants from the water;
  • maintaining beach and intertidal areas that offer public access opportunities for wading, fishing, and walking;
  • reducing the costs of stabilization from bulkheads, rip rap, and other hard structural approaches;
  • creating a carbon sink and thereby helping mitigate climate change.

While there are many benefits associated with living shorelines, they are not appropriate for all geomorphic environments. Drawbacks for living shorelines include:

  • not being appropriate for high energy environments;
  • not being as effective where much of the shoreline is already hardened;
  • being more difficult to design and install than more traditional hard structural approaches;
  • having limited information available on the effectiveness of living shorelines for different types of shorelines, energy regimes, and storm conditions.