Estuarine shorelines have been degraded since humans arrived in the coastal zone. In recent history, a major cause of habitat degradation has been the armoring of shorelines with vertical walls to protect property from erosive wave energy; however, a lack of practical alternatives that maintain or enhance ecological function has limited the options of waterfront residents and coastal zone managers. We experimentally investigated the habitat value of two configurations of submerged breakwaters constructed along an eroding shoreline in northwest Mobile Bay, AL (USA). Breakwaters comprised of bagged oyster shell or Reef Ball (TM) concrete domes were built by a community-based restoration effort. Post-deployment monitoring found that: bagged oyster breakwaters supported much higher densities of live ribbed mussels than Reef Ball breakwaters; both breakwater configurations supported increased species richness of juvenile and smaller fishes compared to controls; and that larger fishes did not appear to be affected by breakwater presence. Our study demonstrates that ecologically degraded shorelines can be augmented with small-scale breakwaters at reasonable cost and that these complex structures can serve as habitat for filter-feeding bivalves, mobile invertebrates, and young fishes. Understanding the degree to which these structures mitigate erosive wave energy and protect uplands will require a longer time frame than our 2-year-long study.
Ecological Value of Submerged Breakwaters for Habitat Enhancement on a Residential Scale
Title: Ecological Value of Submerged Breakwaters for Habitat Enhancement on a Residential Scale
February 01, 2015
Journal: Environmental Management
Publisher: Springer Link
Scyphers, S.; Powers, S.; Heck, K. (2015). Ecological Value of Submerged Breakwaters for Habitat Enhancement on a Residential Scale. Environmental Management, 55(2), 383-391.