Coconuts playing key role in protecting NJ coastline
🌴The American Littoral Society uses coconut coir to help restore shorelines
🌴Coir logs hold the shoreline in place, allowing for vegetation to regrow
🌴Coir logs are sustainable, renewable and economical
Coastal communities around the world, including in New Jersey, are adding a tropical twist to shoreline protection with the help of the coconut.
There has been a tremendous challenge in protecting and restoring the shoreline between typical erosion, storms, and now, climate change, says Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society.
“We’re always looking for unique and creative answers to meet that challenge, how we protect coastal habitats, ecosystems, and people’s property. We like to use natural materials, things that will ultimately become part of the coastal feature or the beach that we’re trying to protect or restore,” Dillingham said.
What is coir?
The state has found coconut-based logs, called “coir,” which is the stringy fiber taken off the coconut’s husk. It’s done in India and it’s fashioned into long logs of different heights, Dillingham said.
The logs are used to hold the edge of the beach, the dune, or the shoreline in place while salt marsh is regrown on it, or dune grasses, or other natural vegetation. Since the coconut fibers are natural, they will disintegrate and disappear into the soil, Dillingham explained.
Basically, the coir logs serve as a buffer zone or as barriers to waves which can cause erosion. The logs are put in place so that they are parallel to the water. When the water hits, it will hit against the logs, rather than the soft shoreline.
This gives the shoreline a chance to have vegetation regrow which will hold it in place, making them more resistant to storms.
The coir logs will then ultimately break down and become part of the soil, Dillingham said.
Why is it beneficial to use coconut material?
The coconut material is sustainable, renewable, readily available, and cost-effective, which seals the deal, according to Dillingham.
Using these nature-based approaches costs half as much as it would cost to put a hard structure like a bulkhead or a wall in place.
While it’s difficult to find coconuts and palm trees in New Jersey, Dillingham said New Jersey has a statewide distribution that receives these coconut materials from India, Sri Lanka, and other places in the Indonesian Pacific.
What New Jersey projects use coir?
The American Littoral Society just finished a project in Neptune Township and the Shark River Cleanup Coalition on the Shark River using coir.
“We protected the beach there, rebuilt it, and rebuilt sand dunes after the town, very wisely decided not to build a hard bulkhead and wall structure there,” Dillingham said.
The $1.3 million Neptune project was 2,000 feet long. Dillingham said two lines of coir logs were put in place. One was along the edge where the water meets the shoreline. The other was where the dune was being recreated. That’s 4,000 feet of coir log utilized on this project, he added.
The society will also use the coir logs in a project in Point Pleasant at Slade Dale. Dillingham said they will integrate the logs in with the recycled Christmas trees this year. The coir logs will be used as barriers that are protecting the salt marshes in Slade Dale preserve to give them a chance to recover.
How can the public help?
Dillingham said they are always looking for members of the public to help plant dune grasses on the beaches.
On Earth Day, which is April 22, the American Littoral Society will be planting dune grass at Slade Dale in Point Pleasant. People are welcome to come and help plant.
For more information, visit here.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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