The placement of fixed engineering structures on or along the shoreline to reduce coastal erosion.

Beach nourishment

Large volume of sand added from outside source to an eroding beach to widen the beach and move the shoreline seaward.


Offshore structure intended to break waves, reducing the force of wave action and encouraging sediment accretion. Can be floating or fixed to the ocean floor, attached to shore or not, and continuous or segmented. A gapped approach would allow habitat connectivity, greater tidal exchange, and better waterfront access.

Bulkhead or Seawall

A vertical structure that acts as a retaining wall usually constructed parallel to a shoreline.

Coastal resilience

The ability to avoid, minimize, withstand, and recover from the effects of adversity, whether natural or man-made, under all circumstances of use. This definition also applies to engineering, ecological, and community resilience.


The loss of sediment from the shoreline due to the action of water, ice or wind that carries sediment grains from the land to the water column away from the source.


A cross shore distance along open water over which wind blows to generate waves. For any given shore, there may be several fetch distances depending on predominant wave direction.

Global sea level rise

The worldwide increase in the volume of the world's oceans that occurs as a result of thermal expansion and melting ice caps and glaciers.

Hybrid Coastal Engineering

Methods that combine “green” protection approaches, such as sand dunes, grasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and wetlands, with “gray” approaches such as sea walls, revetments, and breakwaters.


Perpendicular structure projecting from the shoreline. Intercepts water flow and sand moving parallel to the shoreline to prevent beach erosion, break waves, and retain sand placed on beach.

Land subsidence

A downward or lowering shift of the land surface due to mining, natural gas extraction, groundwater withdrawal, and geologic processes such as earthquakes, faulting, and isostatic rebound. .

Living Shoreline

Shoreline stabilization approaches that integrate living components, such as plantings, with strategically placed structural elements, such as sills, revetments, and breakwaters.

Marsh sill

A low revetment placed offshore from an existing marsh or in conjunction with sand fill to create or widen a marsh where it does not occur naturally.

Planted marsh

The use of wetland plants to provide wave attenuation and to increase tidal wetland habitat.


A longshore segment of a shoreline where influences and impacts, such as wind direction, wave energy, littoral transport, etc. mutually interact.

Recurrent flooding

Flooding that occurs repeatedly in the same area over time.

Relative sea level rise

The change in sea level relative to the elevation of the land. Includes global sea level rise, land subsidence, and changes in ocean circulation.

Revetment or Riprap

A sloped structure constructed with large, heavy stone or other material (riprap) placed against the upland bank for erosion protection.


Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering

Sheltered coast

Estuaries which have a limited distance between banks (fetch) and limited exposure to wind-driven waves

Storm surge

The resulting temporary rise in sea level due to the action of wind stress on the water surface and low atmospheric pressure created during storms which can cause coastal flooding. Surge is the difference from expected tide level. Storm tide is the total water level.

Tidal range

The vertical difference between high tide and low tide.

Wave energy

Wave energy is related to wave height and describes the force a wave is likely to have on a shoreline. Different environments will have lower or higher wave energy depending on environmental factors like shore orientation, wind, channel width, and bathymetry. Boat wakes can also generate waves.