Florida Experiment Lessens Shoreline Damage from High-Energy Waves

The Takeaway: A dual-defense strategy led to a 30- to-90-percent reduction in destructive wave energy.

The “green” materials used in living shorelines often minimize erosion and help anchor habitat. But living shorelines alone cannot win when buffeted by fierce wave action and boat wakes. A Florida field experiment combined two lines of defense at six sites to dissipate high-energy waves by 30 to 90 percent—porous wooden breakwalls placed in front of structures that attract thousands of oysters. A manual can help other communities follow suit. The project was led by the University of Florida, and project partners include the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA’s Science Collaborative program.

This project has inspired similar installations in nearby estuaries. For example, the shoreline design has been replicated at North Peninsula State Park by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and St. Johns River Water Management District. The commission is funding ongoing monitoring at both the pilot site and the state park.

An instructional video guides people in the process, step by step. The Florida design—previously used with success in the Netherlands—was tested and improved on site. The partners have featured their findings at local events, national conferences, trainings for restoration practitioners, and interpretive exhibits at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve.

Research reserve staff members helped design the project, build partnerships, support field work, supply technical assistance and additional data, and assist with written materials, workshops, and public events. In total, these staff members and 130-plus volunteers provided more than 640 hours of project support.

On-the-ground efforts were led by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The project team received a grant of $721,477 from NOAA’s Science Collaborative, a program that’s managed in partnership with the University of Michigan. Visit the project page to learn more and access all products. (2020)

Partners: Florida’s Aquatic Preserves, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Friends of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve, Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve, National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative, Radboud Universteit Nijmegan, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, University of Florida’s Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, University of New Hampshire