The impact that Helping Nature Heal makes on our shorelines is so big, it can be seen from outer space!
Here are two Google map screenshots of the same shoreline, taken just over 300 ft apart. Can you spot the difference between the photos?
The difference between the two photos can be summed up in two words: coastal erosion.
Both shorelines experience the same waves, the same swells and the storms, at the same time. However it appears that the shoreline in the photo on the right has experienced a greater magnitude of erosion when compared to the photo on the left.
Why is that?
The shoreline on the left is a living shoreline constructed by Helping Nature Heal. The team uses plant biomass to build a natural armor for the shoreline, which helps it fight back against coastal erosion. This makes living shorelines dynamic yet intact ecosystems, echoing the dynamic nature of riparian ecosystems as a whole; the transitional space between an aquatic and terrestrial habitat.
Taking a closer look at a living shoreline from the ground level, you can get a better idea of how they are made. The armor itself is stitched by planting a variety of carefully selected shrubs and grasses, such as spartina and willow. These plants not only posses rigorous root systems which keep the living shoreline’s biomass and underlying sediment in place; their structure above- ground is also effective at absorbing different forms energy (ie. wind and waves).
When contrasted to a riprap which mainly deflects energy, a living shoreline does more to transform energy. If we consider waves as our source of energy, a rip rap will deflect incoming waves in any direction away from the shore. Whereas a living shoreline will effectively reduce the speed and intensity of the waves as they touchdown. A living shoreline does not make incoming waves their neighbour’s problem.
When we consider what we can do to mitigate coastal erosion, we have to look at the big picture: the whole shoreline. A shoreline is only as healthy as its’ most eroded section.
In the photos above, by installing a living shoreline on the left, we have not impacted the shoreline on the right. If instead we were to have installed a riprap on the left, we would have then negatively impacted the shore on the right. We would’ve compounded the energy that the shore to the right experienced, causing it to erode more over a shorter period of time.
In taking a look again at the two photos from above, we now have an idea of the big picture. We now see that it is not just about mitigating coastal erosion, but also the approach we take. If we consider how we can help nature heal, we then consider the bigger picture. We are able to look beyond property borders and the benefit of the individual. We begin to think about making an impact on a larger scale. This is the power of helping nature heal.