Living Shorelines Contacts:

Jonnie Smallman: Living Shorelines Project Leader
Christina Cantrell: Living Shorelines Project Director

For more information or to volunteer, contact us:
call (850) 763-4303 or e-mail



Why Living Shorelines?

St. Andrew Bay RMA is coordinating shoreline restoration projects in St. Andrew Bay to plant and grow salt marsh grass as a preferred alternative to shoreline hardening. Shoreline hardening or armoring to prevent erosion involves the installation of a hard structure like a seawall, bulkhead, or rip rap. Landowners typically assume this is the only option to protect their property, but in many instances a more natural approach can be used with success. In this case, the homeowner’s choice to plant and use smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) to protect their waterfront property from erosion was made after observing the benefits of previous restoration projects completed by RMA.

Salt and tidal marshes in Northwest Florida were abundant in the past, and although natural processes and adverse human influences have degraded our coastal habitats, recently there has been increased awareness and interest in restoring shoreline properties and adding value back to some of our most abundant resources. Although the effects of a few scattered seawalls along the shoreline might seem trivial, the cumulative effects of the structures cause harm to shoreline habitats and dynamics. There are many benefits to a natural marsh shoreline over a modified hardened shoreline. Marsh grasses help to prevent erosion by buffering the impact of wind and waves on the shoreline. As the plants grow, they trap sediment which will stabilize and actually build the shoreline, a benefit not provided by shoreline armoring. They help improve water quality by filtering pollutants that run off the land and into our bays, creeks, and bayous.

Marsh grasses provide nursery areas for at least 70% of Florida’s important recreational and commercial fishes, shellfish, and crustaceans. Hidden within the tangle of salt marsh plants are aquatic animals in various stages of life. Animals can hide from predators in marsh vegetation, because these refuge areas physically exclude larger fish. Many of Florida’s popular marine fish species spend the early part of their lives protected in coastal marshes. The food web of the marsh also extends outward to include local and migratory birds and marine mammals. Protection and restoration of these areas is important because many of Florida’s marine fisheries will decline and may disappear without coastal wetlands and healthy marsh grasses.

Besides sacrificing a healthy ecosystem where both citizens and animals thrive, a hardened shoreline causes more erosion and damage to adjacent shoreline properties from the increased wave energy created by the structures. Studies have shown that this increased wave energy eventually causes scouring and a lowering of the shore bottom, which ultimately may lead to a failure of the base of the armoring structure.

Our Partners:

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Deane Bozeman School
  • Ron Boyce (AMIKids Panama City Marine Instititute)
  • UF/IFAS Extension Bay County
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves, Florida Coastal Office)
  • Northwest Florida Water Management District
  • Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance
  • Bay Environmental Study Team


A sample of habitat restoration projects completed by St. Andrew Bay Watch