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Title Generalizing Ecological Effects of Shoreline Armoring Across Soft Sediment Environments
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Despite its widespread use, the ecological effects of shoreline armoring are poorly synthesized and difficult to generalize across soft sediment environments and structure types. We developed a conceptual model that scales predicted ecological effects of shore-parallel armoring based on two axes: engineering purpose of structure (reduce/slow velocities or prevent/stop flow of waves and currents) and hydrodynamic energy (e.g., tides, currents, waves) of soft sediment environments. We predicted greater ecological impacts for structures intended to stop as opposed to slow water flow and with increasing hydrodynamic energy of the environment. We evaluated our predictions with a literature review of effects of shoreline armoring for six possible ecological responses (habitat distribution, species assemblages, trophic structure, nutrient cycling, productivity, and connectivity). The majority of studies were in low-energy environments (51 of 88), and a preponderance addressed changes in two ecological responses associated with armoring: habitat distribution and species assemblages. Across the 207 armoring effects studied, 71% were significantly negative, 22% were significantly positive, and 7% reported no significant difference. Ecological responses varied with engineering purpose of structures, with a higher frequency of negative responses for structures designed to stop water flow within a given hydrodynamic energy level. Comparisons across the hydrodynamic energy axis were less clear-cut, but negative responses prevailed (>78%) in high-energy environments. These results suggest that generalizations of ecological responses to armoring across a range of environmental contexts are possible and that the proposed conceptual model is useful for generating predictions of the direction and relative ecological impacts of shoreline armoring in soft sediment ecosystems.

Contributors J.E. Dugan, K.A. Emery, Merryl Alber, Clark R. Alexander, James Byers, Alyssa Gehman, Natalie Ann McLenaghan and S.E. Sojka

Dugan, J., Emery, K., Alber, M., Alexander, C.R. Jr., Byers, J., Gehman, A., McLenaghan, N.A. and Sojka, S. 2018. Generalizing Ecological Effects of Shoreline Armoring Across Soft Sediment Environments. Estuaries and Coasts. 41(1):180-196. (DOI: 10.1007/s12237-017-0254-x)

Key Words Coastal armoring, Cross-site Research, Shore Protection, Student Publication
File Date 2018
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.