- Science on the Sound
Are We Engineering Away Our Natural Defenses Along North Carolina's Coasts? Rachel Gittman March 29, 2018 The Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) recently hosted a lecture on shoreline erosion control strategies as part of its “Science on the Sound” lecture series. This series, held monthly, highlights information on coastal topics and issues in northeast North Carolina. This month, the program featured Dr. Rachel Gittman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at East Carolina University (ECU). Dr. Gittman’s presentation, entitled “Are We Engineering Away Our Natural Defenses Along North Carolina’s Coast?”, highlighted a variety of erosion control strategies, both natural and engineered, and the benefits each bring to coastal systems. The demand for coastal defense strategies against storms has increased with population growth and development along coastlines. Shoreline hardening is a practice designed to prevent erosion and loss of property, but that also has the potential to alter coastal ecosystem function. Dr. Gittman’s research focuses on understanding the extent, drivers, and ecological consequences of shoreline hardening (e.g., bulkheads), as well as evaluating the functionality of alternative shore protection approaches, such as living shorelines. Results from multi-year field studies and waterfront resident surveys in North Carolina suggest that living shorelines, promote higher diversity and abundances of marine organisms, and are also more resilient to erosion and damage from major storm events than bulkheads.