Engineering away our natural defenses: An analysis of shoreline hardening in the US
Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care
Rapid coastal population growth and development are primary drivers of marine habitat degradation. Although shoreline hardening, a byproduct of development, can accelerate erosion and loss of beaches and tidal wetlands, it is a common practice globally.
Here, we provided the first estimate of shoreline hardening along United States coasts and predicted where existing or future hardening may result in tidal wetland loss if coastal management changes are not made. Our analysis indicated that 22,842 km of continental U.S. shoreline, 14% of the total, has been hardened.
We also considered how socioeconomic and physical factors relate to the pervasiveness of shoreline hardening and found that housing density, GDP, storms, and wave height were positively correlated with hardening. Over 50% of South Atlantic and Gulf Coast shorelines are fringed with tidal wetlands that could be threatened by hardening based on projected population growth, storm frequency, and a lack of shoreline hardening restrictions…