Photo by Sean Powers, University of South Alabama

Coastal erosion is one of the most daunting problems that a seaside city or county can face. The loss of shorelines and coastal areas due to storm activity can be a devastating event, with damages ranging in the millions of dollars. There are a number of methods used to try and contain such erosion, but a new technique is seeking to establish a thriving underwater ecosystem in process. Marine scientists in Alabama are utilizing tons of oyster shells to create a barrier reef that will serve as a habitat for sea life, filter the water, and protect the coast.

oyseawall01-robsteph.jpgPhoto by Rob and Stephanie Levy

Shorelines are commonly held by bulkheads, berms or ugly concrete seawalls. This new approach offers an innovative solution to an old problem. The living shoreline being installed at Dauphin Island in Alabama is result of a partnership between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. In essence, the project will create a coastal barrier reef with the hope that aquatic life will hold it strong against hurricanes and other severe storms.

Once the oyster shells have been deposited, it is expected that they will soon become underwater ecosystems teeming with life. A viable technique for shorelines where the water is not too deep, the new seawall will replace an old conventional barrier, re-creating the environment it destroyed. The project is expected to cost 1.5 millions dollars, which may sound expensive until one considers that it will be replacing a 3.6 million dollar barrier that was recently demolished when it was found inadequate.

+ Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

+ Dauphin Island Sea Lab