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Natural Coastal Defences Offer More Than Protection From Extreme Weather Events; They Also Help Create Ecosystems

February 21, 2018 |

By Jonathan Wilkins (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on

“As sea levels rise and coastal communities face the threat of erosion and flooding, coastal defence structures, often built with concrete, have become the norm in many parts of the world. But these hard engineered structures, like seawalls, breakwaters and groynes, are both expensive and bad for the environment.

…It is particularly important because natural coastal defence systems offer more than just protection from extreme weather events; they also help create ecosystems—certain habitats offer a benefit to humans, like filtration by mussels leading to an increase in water quality.

These need to be taken into consideration in any cost-benefit analyses, and they are an important consideration in our current Port Phillip Bay trial. Finding a way of using  to perform a function previously served by engineered structures is going to require a big shift in our collective mindset; as it demands changes to how we design and evaluate coastal defence infrastructure.

Designing a  like a concrete wall based on engineering resilience, constancy and predictability, is in direct contrast to ecological resilience, which promotes variability. While ecological resilience may not offer the visible reassurance of a solid wall, for example, it offers so much more. Perhaps we need to trust nature to do its job, and allow ecosystems to absorb disturbances and remain in a stable state…”

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