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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

MONITORING LIVING SHORELINES ON THE GEORGIA COAST**

Abstract

Living shorelines (LSLs) are bank stabilization methods that provide a nature-based alternative to armored shorelines such as bulkheads or rock revetments. In contrast to those hard structures, LSLs are designed to provide fringing salt marsh habitat and a natural transition from tidal creeks to uplands. The LSL approach is relatively new on the Georgia coast, where tidal ranges and shoreline slopes exceed those of neighboring South Atlantic states with more established LSL techniques. Scientific monitoring is needed to understand the ecological consequences of LSLs and to guide their design and management. In 2015, the fourth LSL in Georgia was constructed of bagged oyster shells and native plantings on Lawrence Creek at Cannon’s Point Preserve, St. Simons Island. We monitored the site for six years—one year pre-construction and five years post-construction—by conducting annual transect surveys of benthic invertebrate and intertidal plant communities. Despite impacts from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017, we observed gradual increases in invertebrate species diversity and in population densities of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin, 1791) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora Loisel.). These keystone species stabilize the creek bank and provide valuable refuge and foraging habitat for fish and crustaceans. We are now applying what we have learned from Cannon’s Point to start a new monitoring program at a proposed LSL site on Honey Creek on the campus of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia Retreat Center, Camden County. Employing a before-after-control-impact study design, we have collected baseline data on benthic invertebrates and plants along the currently eroding shoreline, and we plan to expand the scope of monitoring to include nekton and water quality. Together, these projects will provide novel insights into the physical and biological effects of LSLs in the dynamic estuarine environment of coastal Georgia.

Acknowledgements

CCGA Department of Natural Sciences

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