Investigating options for restoring, enhancing and evaluating estuarine habitat resilience

Coastal habitats are threatened by numerous stressors and negative effects are exacerbated by human activities. Coastal ecosystems such as marshes, seagrass, and mangroves, which help mitigate wave damage and coastal erosion, are vulnerable to development, extreme weather events, and sea level rise. Native oyster populations, which provide valuable ecosystem services and are an integral part of local economies, have also suffered as a result of habitat loss and change.

In order to restore threatened habitats, communities have been taking steps to understand stressors and mitigate their negative effects on habitats. Stakeholders and end users are taking an active role in improving the sustainability of shoreline restoration, oyster populations, and salt marsh ecosystems.

Expanding research on habitat degradation and marsh health to identify potential management solutions that help plan for a desired future is a priority need for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. As a result, Science Collaborative project teams are studying multiple components of coastal and estuarine restoration, including native oyster habitat restoration, sediment transport and deposition, invasive species impacts, and natural alternatives for shoreline protection and restoration.

To learn more about specific projects and research products in this focus area, follow the links below.

Projects Resources

Studying the impacts and tradeoffs of structural and natural methods for stabilizing shorelines

Sea coasts are particularly vulnerable to mounting threats from sea level rise, severe storms, and changing weather patterns, and increasingly require intervention to reduce associated impacts. Traditional methods of protecting shorelines have largely been structural, including concrete and steel seawalls, bulkheads, and revetments. While these "gray" methods are effective at preventing damage to shoreline properties from waves and flooding in high-energy environments, they can also increase the rate of local erosion and have detrimental impacts to sensitive coastal habitats.

Increasingly, researchers, land managers, and regulators are turning to natural methods, or "living shorelines," which provide ecological benefits in addition to flood and erosion protection. Using vegetation, sand, oyster reefs, rock sills, and other natural materials, living shorelines can achieve multiple goals in addition to shoreline stabilization, including creating habitat for wildlife, improving water quality, and filtering storm runoff.

Note: Shoreline stabilization is not an explicit focus area for 2019 -2023 funding opportunities the way it was in prior years, but living shoreline projects align well with the current habitat restoration focus area.

To learn more about specific projects and research products addressing this topic area, follow the links below.

Projects Resources