Nature-Based Coastal Defenses: Can Biodiversity Help?

Bregje Karien van Wesenbeeck, John N. Griffin, Carter Smith, Stephanie Valdez, Mark van Koningsveld, Keryn B. Gedan, Michael W. McCoy, Brian Reed Silliman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


The rapid degradation of ecosystems jeopardizes the services they provide. Among the most valuable of these services is protection of coastlines by shoreline ecological communities, such as coral reefs, mangroves and salt marshes. Currently, coastal protection potential of ecosystems is estimated primarily as a function of their spatial extent and type. The degree to which coastal protection depends on aspects of biodiversity within and across these ecosystems is, however, much less explored. Here we synthesize evidence from multiple sources to evaluate whether aspects of biodiversity may influence the degree of coastal protection afforded by coastal ecosystems. We discuss relevant biodiversity theory and the few studies that have investigated how species identity affects shoreline protection, as a first attempt to identify the aspects of biodiversity that are likely to be important in enhancing coastal protection efforts. This synthesis should empower ecologists, conservation scientists and practitioners to test for and then harness the unrealized, but high yield potential, of incorporating biodiversity into coastal defense planning.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Biodiversity, Third Edition
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-7
EditorsSamuel M. Scheiner
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780128225622
ISBN (Print)9780323984348
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Biodiversity
  • Building with nature
  • Coral reefs
  • Ecosystem services
  • Functional traits
  • Mangroves
  • Nature-based coastal protection
  • Salt marshes


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