MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Coastal erosion is an environmental issue that we have been dealing with for several hundred years. Researchers at Dauphin Island Sea Lab have partnered with several agencies including TNC, UAB, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Moffatt Nichol, and the State of Alabama to combat this problem. 

Living shorelines are basically breakwaters or sea walls made out of mostly natural materials that not only work to reduce wave activity and coastal erosion, but also create a natural habitat for marine organisms. Dr. Ken Heck, Marine Scientist, and Researcher at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, explains, “The benefit of doing these living shoreline projects as opposed to putting something up like a bulkhead is that you also get habitat that is available for utilization by fishes and crabs.”

Researchers have found that the best and most efficient way to make these living shorelines is by using a rock as a base and then oyster shells as a veneer on top. 

Dr. Heck adds, “And that is a cue for settlement for oysters. And that is usually one of the goals. You like to get the establishment of oysters there and so that you have a living reef kind of thing that attracts all other kinds of organisms.”

Scientists believe that these living shorelines could reduce coastal erosion by around 30%. But why not 100%? Dr. Heck says that one answer is the rising sea levels. Right now there are around thirteen to fifteen of these living shorelines along the Alabama Coast. They range from 50 feet to almost a mile long in some cases and are all working to reduce wave activity and lessen coastal erosion. Dr. Heck says that most of the shorelines are on public property, but they are trying to encourage those that live on private land to install them as well instead of a bulkhead.

For a guide to building a living shoreline for homeowners:

For more information, contact the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program at