Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1709–1729 | Cite as

Hard Structures for Coastal Protection, Towards Greener Designs

  • T. SchooneesEmail author
  • A. Gijón Mancheño
  • B. Scheres
  • T. J. Bouma
  • R. Silva
  • T. Schlurmann
  • H. Schüttrumpf
Special Issue: Integrating Ecosystems and Coastal Engineering Practice


Over recent years, many coastal engineering projects have employed the use of soft solutions as these are generally less environmentally damaging than hard solutions. However, in some cases, local conditions hinder the use of soft solutions, meaning that hard solutions have to be adopted or, sometimes, a combination of hard and soft measures is seen as optimal. This research reviews the use of hard coastal structures on the foreshore (groynes, breakwaters and jetties) and onshore (seawalls and dikes). The purpose, functioning and local conditions for which these structures are most suitable are outlined. A description is provided on the negative effects that these structures may have on morphological, hydrodynamic and ecological conditions. To reduce or mitigate these negative impacts, or to create new ecosystem services, the following nature-based adaptations are proposed and discussed: (1) applying soft solutions complementary to hard solutions, (2) mitigating morphological and hydrodynamic changes and (3) ecologically enhancing hard coastal structures. The selection and also the success of these potential adaptations are highly dependent on local conditions, such as hydrodynamic forcing, spatial requirements and socioeconomic factors. The overview provided in this paper aims to offer an interdisciplinary understanding, by giving general guidance on which type of solution is suitable for given characteristics, taking into consideration all aspects that are key for environmentally sensitive coastal designs. Overall, this study aims to provide guidance at the interdisciplinary design stage of nature-based coastal defence structures.


Coastal structures Green infrastructure Building with nature Ecosystem engineering Nature-based solutions Environment-friendly engineering Ecosystem services 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and Exceed Swindon (International Network on Sustainable Water Management in Developing Countries) for funding the Integrating Ecosystems in Coastal Engineering Practice (INECEP) Summer School.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Schoonees
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Gijón Mancheño
    • 2
  • B. Scheres
    • 3
  • T. J. Bouma
    • 4
    • 5
  • R. Silva
    • 6
  • T. Schlurmann
    • 1
  • H. Schüttrumpf
    • 3
  1. 1.Ludwig Franzius Institute of Hydraulic, Estuarine and Coastal EngineeringLeibniz University HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Faculty of Civil Engineering and GeosciencesDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources ManagementRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Estuarine and Delta SystemsRoyal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)YersekeThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Faculty of GeosciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Instituto de IngenieríaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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