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Keywords:

  • Coastal sustainability;
  • grassroots conservation;
  • living shorelines;
  • saltmarsh;
  • social-ecological systems;
  • shoreline armoring

Abstract

Along densely populated coasts, the armoring of shorelines is a prevalent cause of natural habitat loss and degradation. This article explores the values and decision making of waterfront homeowners and identifies two interlinked and potentially reversible drivers of coastal degradation. We discovered that: (1) misperceptions regarding the environmental impacts and cost-effectiveness of different shoreline conditions was common and may promote armoring; and (2) many homeowners reported only altering their shorelines in response to damage caused by armoring on neighboring properties. Collectively, these findings suggest that a single homeowner's decision may trigger cascading degradation along a shoreline, which highlights the necessity of protecting existing large stretches of natural shoreline. However, our study also found that most homeowners were concerned with environmental impacts and preferred the aesthetics of natural landscapes, both of which could indicate nascent support and pathways for conservation initiatives along residential shorelines.