Hard Structures for Coastal Protection, Towards Greener Designs

T. Schoonees*, A. Gijón Mancheño, B. Scheres, T. J. Bouma, R. Silva, T. Schlurmann, H. Schüttrumpf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Over recent years, many coastal engineering projects have employed the use of soft solutions as these are generally less environmentally damaging than hard solutions. However, in some cases, local conditions hinder the use of soft solutions, meaning that hard solutions have to be adopted or, sometimes, a combination of hard and soft measures is seen as optimal. This research reviews the use of hard coastal structures on the foreshore (groynes, breakwaters and jetties) and onshore (seawalls and dikes). The purpose, functioning and local conditions for which these structures are most suitable are outlined. A description is provided on the negative effects that these structures may have on morphological, hydrodynamic and ecological conditions. To reduce or mitigate these negative impacts, or to create new ecosystem services, the following nature-based adaptations are proposed and discussed: (1) applying soft solutions complementary to hard solutions, (2) mitigating morphological and hydrodynamic changes and (3) ecologically enhancing hard coastal structures. The selection and also the success of these potential adaptations are highly dependent on local conditions, such as hydrodynamic forcing, spatial requirements and socioeconomic factors. The overview provided in this paper aims to offer an interdisciplinary understanding, by giving general guidance on which type of solution is suitable for given characteristics, taking into consideration all aspects that are key for environmentally sensitive coastal designs. Overall, this study aims to provide guidance at the interdisciplinary design stage of nature-based coastal defence structures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1709-1729
Number of pages21
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Integrating Ecosystems and Coastal Engineering Practice


  • Building with nature
  • Coastal structures
  • Ecosystem engineering
  • Ecosystem services
  • Environment-friendly engineering
  • Green infrastructure
  • Nature-based solutions


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