Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 189–208 | Cite as

Ecological design for urban waterfronts

  • Karen Dyson
  • Ken Yocom


Urban waterfronts are rarely designed to support biodiversity and other ecosystem services, yet have the potential to provide these services. New approaches that integrate ecological research into the design of docks and seawalls provide opportunities to mitigate the environmental impacts of urbanization and recover ecosystem function in urban waterfronts. A review of current examples of ecological design in temperate cities informs suggestions for future action. Conventional infrastructures have significant and diverse impacts on aquatic ecosystems. The impacts of conventional infrastructure are reduced where ecological designs have been implemented, particularly by projects adding microhabitat, creating more shallow water habitat, and reconstructing missing or altered rocky benthic habitats. Opportunities for future research include expanding current research into additional ecosystems, examining ecological processes and emergent properties to better address ecosystem function in ecological design, and addressing the impact of and best practices for continuing maintenance. Planned ecological infrastructure to replace aging and obsolete structures will benefit from design feedback derived from carefully executed in situ pilot studies.


Ecological design Seawalls Habitat Waterfront Urban infrastructure Aquatic ecology 



Our most sincere gratitude to all those who took the time to speak with us about their ecological design projects. Thank you to Martha Groom, Dan Huppert, Amber Moore, Gordon Bradley, and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and constructive criticism on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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