Living Shoreline Monitoring at Cannon’s Point Preserve
Authors: Kristina Ashe, Mason Forsyth, Cole Wiggins, and Cole Wilder
Faculty Supervisor: C. Tate Holbrook, Ph.D.
The main goal of conservation biology is to prevent the loss of biological diversity. In BIOL 4020 Conservation Biology, we apply conservation biology at Cannon’s Point Preserve (CPP), a 600-acre nature preserve on the north end of St. Simons Island, GA that is managed by the St. Simons Land Trust. A living shoreline was constructed along an erosional section of Lawrence Creek at CPP in 2015. The living shoreline is an alternative erosion control structure that aims to stabilize the creek bank without disrupting the natural salt marsh–upland interface the way a bulkhead would. Our research objectives were to continue a biological monitoring program and evaluate the ecological effects of the living shoreline at CPP. Data was collected from 2014, before the living shoreline was constructed, through 2018, three years post-construction. Eight transects were established perpendicular to the shoreline. Along each transect, we sampled the species diversity and density of the flora and fauna through the intertidal and supratidal zones, paying close attention to recruitment levels of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). Compared to the pre-construction baseline data, the living shoreline has shown an increase in species diversity and in population density of the target species, which provide bank stabilization and ecosystem services including habitat and nutrient cycling. Our findings suggest that the living shoreline has had a positive overall impact on the salt marsh ecosystem, while effectively stabilizing the bank of Lawrence Creek.