Current extent and future opportunities for living shorelines in Australia

Rebecca L. Morris, Erin Campbell-Hooper, Elissa Waters, Melanie J. Bishop, Catherine E. Lovelock, Ryan J. Lowe, Elisabeth M.A. Strain, Paul Boon, Anthony Boxshall, Nicola K. Browne, James T. Carley, Benedikt J. Fest, Matthew W. Fraser, Marco Ghisalberti, Bronwyn M. Gillanders, Gary A. Kendrick, Teresa M. Konlechner, Mariana Mayer-Pinto, Andrew W.M. Pomeroy, Abbie A. RogersViveka Simpson, Arnold A. Van Rooijen, Nathan J. Waltham, Stephen E. Swearer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Living shorelines aim to enhance the resilience of coastlines to hazards while simultaneously delivering co-benefits such as carbon sequestration. Despite the potential ecological and socio-economic benefits of living shorelines over conventional engineered coastal protection structures, application is limited globally. Australia has a long and diverse coastline that provides prime opportunities for living shorelines using beaches and dunes, vegetation, and biogenic reefs, which may be either natural (‘soft’ approach) or with an engineered structural component (‘hybrid’ approach). Published scientific studies, however, have indicated limited use of living shorelines for coastal protection in Australia. In response, we combined a national survey and interviews of coastal practitioners and a grey and peer-reviewed literature search to (1) identify barriers to living shoreline implementation; and (2) create a database of living shoreline projects in Australia based on sources other than scientific literature. Projects included were those that had either a primary or secondary goal of protection of coastal assets from erosion and/or flooding. We identified 138 living shoreline projects in Australia through the means sampled starting in 1970; with the number of projects increasing through time particularly since 2000. Over half of the total projects (59 %) were considered to be successful according to their initial stated objective (i.e., reducing hazard risk) and 18 % of projects could not be assessed for their success based on the information available. Seventy percent of projects received formal or informal monitoring. Even in the absence of peer-reviewed support for living shoreline construction in Australia, we discovered local and regional increases in their use. This suggests that coastal practitioners are learning on-the-ground, however more generally it was stated that few examples of living shorelines are being made available, suggesting a barrier in information sharing among agencies at a broader scale. A database of living shoreline projects can increase knowledge among practitioners globally to develop best practice that informs technical guidelines for different approaches and helps focus attention on areas for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170363
Number of pages154
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online dateFeb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2024


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