Living Shorelines

Living shorelines are an erosion prevention method that use natural barriers such as plants, oysters, and limited rock to protect fragile shorelines while maintaining valuable habitat. Living shoreline projects utilize native and salt tolerant plants at different levels of elevation to avoid the loss of sediment, help to improve water quality via filtration of upland run off, and create habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. In areas of higher wave energy due to large boat wakes or wind-driven waves the use of rock may be necessary, or oyster restoration materials may be used to create a new oyster bed while dissipating wave energy and protecting a shoreline. To learn more about living shorelines, including how to protect your property with one, please visit

Many regions in Florida use different methods to create living shorelines. These methods vary depending on tidal influence, severity of erosion, slope, and what is already present on the natural shoreline. Mangroves, shells, marsh grasses, and many species of native plants are commonly used in living shorelines in Central Florida. To learn more about living shorelines in your area, including how to protect your property, please visit


All mangrove plants or communities live in tropical to sub-tropical climates that contain wet soils, tolerate saline habitats (halophytes), are exposed to periodic tidal submergence and exhibit viviparity (a plant with live birth – the seed is germinated (propagule) on the parent plant before dispersal).

Marsh Grasses

Cordgrass is an important part of the estuarine food web. Manatees eat cordgrass, and algae that adhere to the stems provide food for snails and mussels. As the grass dies it becomes a floating mass, called a wrack, and as it breaks down is eventually eaten by clams, mussels, crabs, and snails.


Oysters are one of the keystone species in Florida, and many species of animals rely on them for food, protection, and habitat. Oyster beds help to dissipate wave energy and keep shorelines intact and they help to keep the water clear by filtering out particulate matter and excess nutrients.

Native Plants

Watering our lawns and landscaping puts a lot of stress on Florida’s aquifer system. Removing water from the aquifer for irrigation means we will have less drinking water, more sinkholes, and are risking the health of Florida’s beautiful natural springs.

Invasive Plants

Invasive species are defined as non-native species in the area that have the capability to spread and cause damage to the environment by killing native species or taking over habitat. Many invasive species in Florida were brought here for ornamental purposes without knowing the long-lasting issues they would cause.

A common concern of many landowners with shoreline property is erosion, and a common response to erosion control is to install a bulkhead. Unfortunately, bulkheads can increase erosion on adjacent unprotected shorelines, are prone to structural failure over time, and cause loss of highly valuable fishery habitat.

“Living shorelines” are attractive shoreline management options that provide erosion control benefits while working with nature to enhance the existing natural shoreline habitat. Living shorelines often allow for natural coastal processes to remain through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill and other structural and organic materials. These structures act as wavebreaks by reducing wave energy and erosion, supporting plant growth and marsh creation. Depending on the location of the property, the wavebreak itself can even become encrusted with oysters and other crustaceans, producing an artificial reef. Living shorelines also result in increased water quality and clarity for the landowner, the bay, and its fish. As an added benefit, the marsh reduces wave energy created by boats and other sources, which reduces erosion on neighboring properties as well.



Jessy Wayles
Marine Discovery Center

Conservation Science Coordinator
I am a graduate from University of Central Florida with a B.S. Environmental Science, and I bring over twelve years of professional and volunteer experience to the Marine Discovery Center. I expanded my interest in environmental science through a variety of volunteer work including relocating sea turtle nests, tagging and measuring sea turtles, and assisting with data collection on fresh water turtles in Florida’s springs.

My love of nature has compelled me to complete the all three Florida Master Naturalist Programs, earning myself the title of Florida Master Naturalist. I have been an interpretive ranger at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina and am continually involved in finding ways to secure the health of the Indian River Lagoon and its habitat by being a member of the Citizen Action Committee at IRL NEP.

When I am not working to make the IRL a healthy  habitat, you can find me at the skating rink playing roller derby under the name “Spikey Wayles” or getting lost in one of Florida’s beautiful and unique ecosystems.

  • BS- Environmental Science, University of Central Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Freshwater Certified, Coastal Systems Certified, and Upland Systems Certified
  • Researcher with the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group
  • Turtle enthusiast!