Coastal armoring is widely applied to coastal ecosystems, such as sandy beaches, in response to shoreline erosion and threats to infrastructure. Use of armoring is expected to increase due to coastal population growth and effects of climate change. An increased understanding of armoring effects on those ecosystems and the services they provide is needed for impact assessments and the design of these structures. We investigated the following hypotheses: 1) impacts of coastal armoring on beach macroinvertebrates increase from lower to upper intertidal zones and 2) location of an armoring structure on beach profiles affects the number of intertidal zones, using comparative surveys of armored and unarmored beach sections in Chile and California. The effects of armoring were greater for upper intertidal (talitrid amphipods) and mid-intertidal species (cirolanid isopods) than for lower shore fauna (hippid crabs). Our surveys of sections of armoring structures located higher and lower on the beach profile (with and without interactions with waves and tides), showed loss of upper zone talitrid amphipods and mid-zone isopods and a reduction of lower zone hippid crabs in sections where the structures were lower on the beach profile and interacted with waves, compared to non-interacting sections. Our results support the hypothesis that impacts of armoring on intertidal macroinvertebrates increase from the lower to the upper intertidal zones of sandy beaches and also suggest that the relative position of an armoring structure on the beach profile, determines the number of intertidal zones it affects. Our findings also imply that by altering the position of existing armoring structures on the shore profile and increasing the amount of interaction with waves and tides, sea level rise and regional factors, such as coseismic coastal subsidence, can be expected to exacerbate the impacts of these widely used coastal defense structures on sandy beach ecosystems.
- Man-made coastal defenses
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal