Ecosystems Services: a benefit to wildlife and people


Coastal islands protect shorelines by dissipating storm wave energy, providing a sheltered environment that reduces the erosion of inland areas. Erosion is a natural and expected process where soil is moved from the shore and deposited elsewhere. Erosion can become more rapid due to climate change increasing storm surges and through human actions, leading to costly damages affecting private property and municipal infrastructure.

Living shorelines use natural materials like riparian plants, sand, and rock, to protect the shore and slow erosion processes. Concrete seawalls or other hard structures can impede the growth of vegetation, reducing habitat and interrupting natural shoreline processes, whereas living shorelines grow over time. Installing a seawall is referred to as “hardening” the shoreline, since wave energy is redirected, seawalls are only a temporary solution that could eventually worsen erosion and negatively impact neighbouring properties.

Coastal cliffs can be important habitat for species at risk. Cliffs with near-vertical sand banks are used as nesting habitat by Bank Swallows, a migratory bird that burrows into substrate to create their nests. Bank Swallows are currently facing large population declines and are at risk due to loss of habitat.

Additional Resources
View the living shoreline in Mahone Bay
Green Shores for Shorelines/Green Shores for Homes
Municipal Nature Assets Initiative
Learn more about living shorelines
Atlantic Canada Bank Swallow Monitoring with Birds Canada
Visit the Brier Island Nature Reserve managed by the NCC