Estuarine environments worldwide are among the most threatened habitats due to increased disturbances resulting from coastal infrastructure and rising population densities. Boating activity is a primary disturbance, as it induces biological stress and morphological changes along the coastline. This high-energy environment that boat wakes create has resulted in loss of surrounding oyster reefs and salt marsh vegetation, ultimately leading to shoreline and habitat erosion. Here, we characterize the boat wake climate in the Intracoastal Waterway, assess the bathymetry in this heavily trafficked area, and anticipate the effects of experimental living shorelines (natural breakwall and oyster restoration structures) on facilitating sediment deposition and slowing vegetation retreat. Field observations indicate that boat wakes suspend nearshore sediment and can reach heights greater than 40 cm. A numerical stability model of the breakwalls suggests that the optimal porosity is field-specific. The desired porosity for minimizing lateral displacement is 0.50, while it is 0.18 for maximum energy dissipation, which indicates a need to further investigate this complex problem. These findings demonstrate that boat wakes significantly and regularly disturb estuarine shorelines and may be altering their bathymetry as well as suggest that the design of the breakwalls may be optimized to best counteract this pervasive disturbance.
About this article
This article, published in Sustainability in 2018, stemmed from work on a collaborative research project to test the efficacy of a new strategy to protect coastal habitat in high-energy environments. The team's findings demonstrate that boat wakes significantly and regularly disturb estuarine shorelines and may be altering their bathymetry as well as suggest that the design of breakwalls and living shorelines may be optimized to best counteract this pervasive disturbance.
Herbert, D., Astrom, E., Bersoza, A.C., Batzer, A., McGovern, P., Angelini, C., Wasman, S., Dix, N., Sheremet, A., 2018. Mitigating Erosional Effects Induced by Boat Wakes with Living Shorelines. Sustainability 10, 436. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020436