Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Supplement 1, pp 2–18 | Cite as

Impacts of Coastal Land Use and Shoreline Armoring on Estuarine Ecosystems: an Introduction to a Special Issue

  • Diann J. ProsserEmail author
  • Thomas E. Jordan
  • Jessica L. Nagel
  • Rochelle D. Seitz
  • Donald E. Weller
  • Dennis F. Whigham


The nearshore land-water interface is an important ecological zone that faces anthropogenic pressure from development in coastal regions throughout the world. Coastal waters and estuaries like Chesapeake Bay receive and process land discharges loaded with anthropogenic nutrients and other pollutants that cause eutrophication, hypoxia, and other damage to shallow-water ecosystems. In addition, shorelines are increasingly armored with bulkhead (seawall), riprap, and other structures to protect human infrastructure against the threats of sea-level rise, storm surge, and erosion. Armoring can further influence estuarine and nearshore marine ecosystem functions by degrading water quality, spreading invasive species, and destroying ecologically valuable habitat. These detrimental effects on ecosystem function have ramifications for ecologically and economically important flora and fauna. This special issue of Estuaries and Coasts explores the interacting effects of coastal land use and shoreline armoring on estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems. The majority of papers focus on the Chesapeake Bay region, USA, where 50 major tributaries and an extensive watershed (~ 167,000 km2), provide an ideal model to examine the impacts of human activities at scales ranging from the local shoreline to the entire watershed. The papers consider the influence of watershed land use and natural versus armored shorelines on ecosystem properties and processes as well as on key natural resources.


Shoreline armoring Chesapeake Bay Land use Coastal development Nearshore habitat Land-water interface 



The development of this thematic issue was possible through the hard work and dedication of all those who conducted and synthesized the research presented here. The authors are extremely grateful to Estuaries and Coasts co-Editors-in-Chief Wayne Gardner and Charles “Si” Simenstad for their support of this special issue. We especially thank Taylor Bowen for his assistance with managing the editorial aspects for all of the papers in the issue. The authors also would like to thank Donna Bilkovic, Iris Anderson and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments to strengthen earlier versions of this manuscript. The use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Photos used in Fig. 1a,b,c,e,f were provided courtesy of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Symbols used in Fig. 2 and the photo used in Fig. 1d were provided courtesy of the Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (


Funding for this paper was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Beltsville LaboratoryU.S. Geological SurveyBeltsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  3. 3.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA

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