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Assessing Ecological and Physical Performance

Monitoring protocols for assessing the physical and ecological performance of nature-based engineered shoreline  structures will be developed under the fourth phase of the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project. Phase 4 began in Fall of 2015 and is a three year project funded by the NERRS Science Collaborative. Stuart Findlay of the Cary Institute, Jon Miller of Stevens Institute and the Consensus Building Institute are collaborating with HRNERR to develop assessment protocols for physical and ecological functions of nature-based shoreline structures along the Hudson River estuary.  Local land stewards and engineers will be trained to use these protocols.

With what will become a simple protocol with only a few tools needed, land stewards and engineers can have baseline data on the condition of their nature-based shoreline site so, for example, when a major storm occurs they will be able to measure how the structure fared and compare  performance to that of traditional hardened shoreline protection. Engineers, landscape architects, and other decision makers can have more confidence in suggesting nature-based or soft shoreline treatments to coastal landowners and land managers.

The shorelines within the Demonstration Site Network are suitable for application of the proposed ecological and physical assessment protocol.

Project Outputs:

    • Collect local data on ecological and physical performance of sustainable (soft) shoreline designs.
    • Establish baseline condition of these shoreline treatments before the next major storm.
    • Field-validate assessment tools for rapidly determining shoreline performance.
    • Develop a manual of guidance on the appropriate use of the assessment tools.
    • Administer field-based workshops on applying the assessment tools to enable local and regional stewards and engineers to track shoreline performance and quantify the benefits and suitability of actual techniques.

Progress of the Project:

The Advisory Committee Meeting Summary from January 20, 2016 outlines the first meeting of Phase 4. An overview of the Sustainable Shorelines Project, timeline and goals for Phase 4 is available here: Sustainable Shorelines Overview Presentation.

The research scientists will be refining protocols in the 2016 field season. The presentation is available here: Shoreline Rapid Assessment Protocols Presentation.

Phase 4 has been chosen as a Finalist for the MIT Climate CoLab Contest in the category of Adaptation. To learn more, visit the Hudson River Sustainable Shoreline Project’s proposal page on the MIT Climate CoLab website or our post about it.

For a simple overview of the Phase 4, take a look at the project factsheet created by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Office for Coastal Management.


For more valuable information on the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project, including project reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, site-specific case studies, prior research, and more click here: Publications and Resources.

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