Generalizing Ecological Effects of Shoreline Armoring Across Soft Sediment Environments

  • J. E. Dugan
  • K. A. Emery
  • M. Alber
  • C. R. Alexander
  • J. E. Byers
  • A. M. Gehman
  • N. McLenaghan
  • S. E. Sojka
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Coastal armoring Shore protection structures Salt marsh Mangrove Estuary Beach Ecosystem function 

Supplementary material

12237_2017_254_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Table S1Examples of positive and negative effects of shoreline armoring for each ecological response category (E1-E6). (DOCX 15 kb)
12237_2017_254_MOESM2_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Table S2List of studies of ecological effects of shoreline armoring included in the literature review. Studies are categorized by intended effect of the armoring structure on water flow, the hydrodynamic energy of the environment, and the box number in the conceptual model. The environment category and type of armoring is also provided for each study. * Studies included in literature review but not directly cited in main body of the paper are listed at end of the table. (DOCX 31.5 kb)
12237_2017_254_MOESM3_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Table S3Mean values of effect sizes (r2) for studies that quantified species assemblages (E2), for each of the six boxes in the conceptual model. Mean values are based on the absolute values of effect size. Standard deviation and sample size (number of measurements used in calculation, not studies) are in parentheses for each box. (DOCX 17.0 kb)

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Dugan
    • 1
  • K. A. Emery
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Alber
    • 3
  • C. R. Alexander
    • 4
  • J. E. Byers
    • 5
  • A. M. Gehman
    • 5
  • N. McLenaghan
    • 3
  • S. E. Sojka
    • 6
  1. 1.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Skidaway Institute of OceanographyUniversity of GeorgiaSavannahUSA
  5. 5.Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  6. 6.Randolph CollegeLynchburgUSA

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