Climate change and population growth are accelerating the need for diverse solutions to coastal protection. Traditionally, shorelines are armoured with conventional ‘hard’ engineering structures such as seawalls which require ongoing maintenance and upgrades. While hard structures will continue to have a place in coastal protection, alternative methods known as ‘living shorelines’ can be more sustainable and climate-resilient.
Living shorelines harness natural ecosystems to reduce coastal erosion and flooding and provide co-benefits such as carbon sequestration. They may consist of dunes, wetlands and biogenic reefs: either alone (‘soft approach’) or in combination with hard structures (‘hybrid approach’). A national repository of learnings from existing projects was needed to enhance knowledge transfer to land managers and community groups considering and undertaking shoreline restoration. This project developed an accessible database for sharing knowledge on different ‘living shorelines’ approaches being used in Australia.
Approach and findings
First Living Shorelines Australia database
This project conducted a stakeholder survey and literature review to develop the first Living Shorelines Australia database. Of the 65 survey respondents, 67.7% had implemented living shorelines, and 66.7% considered them a priority for their organisation. Forty-one percent of the respondents that had implemented living shorelines provided information for the database.
The database contains 138 projects identified though a survey, a literature review and other sources. Most projects were beach or dune management (69.6%), with mangrove-based living shorelines being the next most common approach (14.7%). Soft approaches were more common than hybrid approaches, except for mangroves and shellfish reefs. Barriers to implementation included a lack of understanding, expertise and sample projects, and uncertainty in the level of risk reduction and planning and regulatory barriers.
Australian, state and local agencies, industries and communities now have a database for sharing knowledge on different ‘living shorelines’ approaches being used in Australia. The database contributes to addressing some of the major barriers experienced by coastal practitioners on living shorelines implementation by providing examples and experience. It provides a starting point to upscaling the use of living shorelines as standard practice for coastal hazard risk management. Actions to support this goal include identifying:
- common techniques and supplement with additional research where needed to develop technical guidelines where required;
- emerging technologies for which research could provide ecological, engineering and socio-economic information to support broader use (such as hybrid approaches in lesser-studied environmental settings);
- opportunities to implement living shorelines in underrepresented ecosystems as demonstration projects; and
- diverse stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, community groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to co-design living shoreline projects to protect built, natural, recreational and cultural assets.
The Nature Conservancy
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Technical report – Project 1.10
Current extent and future opportunities for living shorelines in Australia
Rebecca L Morris, Erin Campbell-Hooper, Melanie J Bishop, Catherine E Lovelock, Ryan J Lowe, Elisabeth MA Strain, Sean D Connell, Bronwyn M Gillanders, Lindsay B Hutley, Mariana Mayer-Pinto, Megan I Saunders, Nathan J Waltham and Stephen E Swearer (2022) Current extent and future opportunities for living shorelines in Australia. Report to the National Environmental Science Program. National Centre for Coasts and Climate, University of Melbourne.