Living Shorelines

Many coastal property owners in Nova Scotia are concerned about property loss or damage due to erosion (sediment movement caused by water and wind). Traditionally, boulders or rock walls have been used to reduce property loss. But this type of hard infrastructure can be expensive, require regular maintenance, and even interfere with sediment movement and beach formation, increasing erosion elsewhere along the coast.

Living Shorelines are a softer approach for stabilizing shorelines. Used extensively in the United States, they can help slow down erosion and create resilient shorelines that can better withstand waves and storms. Living Shorelines approaches are diverse, but they all seek to mimic natural processes which help a coastline to reach a more stable state. A variety of coastal ecosystems, such as oyster reefs and eelgrass meadows in shallow waters, salt marshes in the intertidal zones, beaches, dunes, vegetated slopes and upland coastal forests all offer their own unique style of erosion and flood protection, often referred to as ecosystem services. They also all improve water quality and habitat value for a diversity of coastal species.

Climate change-induced sea level rise will only cause more coastal erosion in the future, making it more important than ever to use erosion management techniques that help our coast adapt. Beginning in 2014, the Ecology Action Centre embarked on a series of projects to implement the Living Shorelines Approach along Nova Scotia’s coastline; 3 sites along the 

Northumberland Strait and one demonstration site at St. Mary’s Boat Club, in the heart of Halifax.

Northumberland Strait Demonstration Sites

Between 2012 – 2014, The Ecology Action Centre created three living shoreline demonstration sites along the Northumberland Strait. The goal of these sites was to see if Living Shoreline techniques that had proved successful in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina could be adapted to work here in Nova Scotia. They were located on private coastal properties in Caribou Island, Brule and Malagash. This work was funded by Environment Canada's Eco-Action program and the Sage Foundation. You can read a summary of each project by clicking the links above. 

Saint Mary's Boat Club Demonstration Site

In 2014 and 2015, The EAC partnered with the University of Waterloo's Climate Change Adaptation Project, funded by the Intact Foundation, to create a Living Shorelines demonstration site in Halifax. As part of this process, interested coastal professionals, students, researchers, and property owners helped us go through the various stages of creating a Living Shoreline, from site selection to a workshop to build a basic understanding of Living Shorelines techniques, and to take input from participants about what we could do with the Boat Club. Participants learned about what was possible and drew their ideas. We used these drawings to make the final site plan.

We selected Saint Mary’s Boat Club as our demonstration site. In the spring of 2015 we mapped out where we would plant the trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers for this living shoreline using biodegradable landscaping paint.

In May, over 70 people helped with the planting day. The St. Mary’s Boat Club Living Shoreline came to life with new garden beds, shoreline protection tools, plants, and new community connections to our public spaces. After the project was planned out and the weather warmed up a bit for us, we implemented our Living Shoreline

That September, we planted an additional 150 trees at the boat club's demonstration project and had a corn boil to celebrate our hard work and the bounty of the harvest season. Thanks to TD Friends of the Environment for providing the trees!

Check out our Living Shorelines Toolkit!

We developed Nova Scotia-specific information-based tools to help coastal property owners and coastal professionals apply Living Shorelines principles and approaches here. Below, you’ll find some relevant internal and external resources on Living Shorelines.

Want to get help adding a Living Shoreline to your coastal property?  Contact Helping Nature Heal, an ecological landscaping company that has adapted the Living Shoreline approach to Nova Scotia’s unique coastal ecosystems.  They have worked on many Living Shoreline projects across the province!

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