Living Shorelines – Why You Want Oysters And A Salt Marsh Between You And A Hurricane

Source: Vox/Anne N. Connor 

Photo: Brian Yurasits


In September 2018, Hurricane Florence slammed into Beaufort, North Carolina, a town on the state’s inner banks that sits just 10 feet above sea level. The hurricane brought a 2.5-foot storm surge and sustained winds of 75 miles an hour that lasted some three days.

Florence was a big test for two different strategies for protecting the coast. While the areas with “hard” solutions — seawalls — sustained damage and significant erosion, a section of coastline with a “soft” solution, called a “living shoreline,” fared much better. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Beaufort Living Shoreline oyster reef and marsh was “intact after the storm, with minimal erosion.”

As the Gulf coast and Eastern seaboard ready for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, which began officially on June 1, more communities are trying to stabilize and fortify their coastlines against future storms, flooding, and sea level rise. The more than 120 living shorelines around the country are showing that a combination of oyster reefs, oyster shells, rocks, marsh plants, and other natural materials can be an effective alternative to seawalls. They’re also far less expensive.

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Photo: Brian Yurasits

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