Living Shoreline Explorer

What is the Living Shoreline Explorer app?

This tool identifies shorelines with low enough wave energy to support the use of living shoreline approaches for erosion control to stabilize your coastline, and it provides design guidance for these types of projects based on site-specific wave energy characteristics.

Living shorelines are a shoreline stabilization strategy that incorporate native wetland vegetation either alone, or in combination with structural elements like natural fiber logs, bagged oyster shell or rock, or wooden sills parallel to shore to provide an initial wave break.

Main functions:

This tool identifies areas that have the appropriate wave energy conditions to use a living shoreline as an erosion control strategy.

  1. Maps where it might be suitable to use a more natural technique to stabilize the coastline.
  2. Uses wave energy characteristics to guide recommended design for these types of projects.
Who should use it?

Community planners, coastal managers, shoreline property owners, and restoration practitioners can use this tool to answer the following questions:

Is it feasible to use a living shoreline at this site?    What design will work best for this site? 

Living shoreline design is largely a function of wave energy conditions.  This tool predicts the most appropriate shoreline stabilization strategy for a given shoreline based on modeled wave energy.

The Living Shoreline app suitability analysis assists with the siting and design of these projects.

How does it work?

It uses a science-based analysis of shoreline wave energy factors to determine which living shoreline approach is most suitable.

Marsh Only

Marsh and Oyster Reef

THREE Factors went into the suitability model:

  1. Wind Wave Energy – NOAA’s Wave Exposure Model (WEMo) was used to determine shoreline wind wave energy and then scored based upon previous analysis of WEMo values along stable successful natural marsh shorelines, oyster fringed shorelines and sill based living shorelines.
  2. Boat Wake Energy – The impact of boat wakes was weighted as a function of the distance of shoreline from marked navigation channels.
  3. Proximity to Marsh – Presence of marsh on nearby shorelines indicates suitable conditions for marsh survival

    Marsh and Sill


What are the strengths and limitations?


  1. Analyzes a large area to determine locations where it would be suitable to use a living shoreline project to help stabilize the shoreline.
  2. Recommends design type for these projects based upon the site’s specific conditions.


  1. Additional local factors like nearshore land use, topography, and salinity are also important to consider when designing a living shoreline.
  2. Most living shoreline projects will still require a permit. Consult with local regulatory experts/engineers to determine site-specific design options and permitting requirements.
Where is it being used?

The Living Shoreline app is part of North Carolina’s Coastal Resilience Tool and the application’s geographic coverage includes shorelines in the southern Pamlico, Core and Bogue Sounds and the New River Estuary.

Who helped develop it?

Scientists Jenny Davis and Carolyn Currin from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Beaufort Lab worked with The Conservancy to develop this tool.