EWN home page EWN banner

Spacing for main placement

Spacing for gray top bar
Spacing for home page banner
EWN home page EWN banner

About EWN

Incorporating Vegetation into Engineering Projects

The use of vegetation, plant communities, and ecosystems are important in engineering projects. Plants are keystone species which acclimate, adapt, thrive, and mitigate environmental effects especially in the face of climate change and sea level rise. They are resilient and self-propagating, providing additional reinforcement and stability resulting in cost savings, ecosystem creation, wave attenuation, sediment accretion, and other ecological, economic, and engineering benefits.

Photo 2
Workshop participants plant vegetation during an EWN workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Photo by Barbara Conlin.
Photo 3
Workshop participants plant vegetation during an EWN workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Photo by Barbara Conlin.

Our goal is to assist practitioners (managers, engineers, scientists, architects, builders, land owners, etc.) incorporate desirable native vegetation into engineering projects, through customized design at various stages throughout the lifespan of a project. We apply functional designs into engineering project from planning, design, operation, maintenance, and post-operational phases. In addition we utilize real life projects to demonstrate the use of natural features in engineering and construction projects across many ecosystems (wetlands, dunes, beaches, uplands, riparian, etc.).


Application in Dredge Material Placement Areas

Dredged Material Placement Areas (DMPAs) are created to manage dredged materials. Most DMPAs lack prescribed planting plans and currently face structural and ecological challenges such as dyke failure, invasive plant species colonization, dust outbreak, etc. The objective of our research project is to provide guidance to managers and engineers to incorporate planting regimes into management practices in DMPAs.

Vegetation and reefballs
Vegetation and reefballs stabilize dykes on DMPA in Galveston District. Photo by Tosin Sekoni

Plant communities not only survive, but also adapt to changing environmental conditions as they go into natural succession. The premise of our research is that plants can be used as engineering materials, and should be incorporated into engineering projects for optimal performance while maximizing economic and environmental benefits. Guidance developed through this research will identify and document the use of native plants which provide sustainable solutions to DMPAs and Confined Disposal Facilities through strategic planning, placement, management, and eventual transition following closures. ERDC is collaborating with Districts to assist with formulating planting treatments through EWN Workshops, to demonstrate the use of vegetation and nature based features. Overall, this project will provide resilient and cost effective solutions, serving environmental and engineering functions in DMPAs nationwide. Application of this work is being expanded to other areas such as parks, reservoirs, public, and private lands.

ERDC Publications

Bailey, P., T. Estes, S. Bourne, T. Sekoni, and D. Price. 2017. Introduction to Using Native Plant Community on Dredge Material Placement Areas. EWN Technical Notes Collection. ERDC/TN EWN-17-2. Vicksburg, MS: U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. http://dx.doi.org/10.21079/11681/22544. (external link)

Bailey, P. 2014. A Design Manual: Engineering with Nature Using Native Plant Communities. Engineering With Nature. Vicksburg, MS: U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. (PDF)

Workshops

April 9-12, 2018 - ERDC-NAP Demonstration Workshop on Engineering with Nature; Rehoboth Beach, DE (details)

04/09/2018 04/10/2018 04/11/2018 04/12/2018 workshop

Image 1

Dr. Tosin Sekoni, research ecologist at ERDC and the USACE Philadelphia District conducted a field-based, Engineering With Nature workshop that taught new techniques in living shoreline establishment practices.

BOTTOM LINE UPFRONT: The US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineer, Research and Development Center (ERDC) and Philadelphia District (NAP) conducted a field-based, Engineering with Nature (EWN) workshop that taught new techniques in living shoreline establishment practices to enhance engineering objectives while maximizing environmental benefits. The addition of vegetation to an existing revetment resulted in nature-based features that attenuate waves, build dunes, create wildlife habitat, and prevent erosion in areas located along the Bubble Gum Beach, Indian River Inlet, the Delaware Bay and surrounding ecosystems. The workshop offered an interagency group field experience in conducting living shoreline plantings while providing insights and instructions for incorporating EWN principles into existing projects. This is the second of a series of field-based, EWN workshops that will be facilitated by ERDC to train USACE engineers, scientists, and project managers on new techniques to manage existing engineering structures using native vegetation.

BACKGROUND: In March 2016, the USACE and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-National Ocean Service (NOS) conducted a collaborative workshop on Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF). During this workshop, participants identified several NNBF collaborative projects, and the use of native vegetation on Dredged Material Placement Areas was identified as priority for application of EWN principles and practices on a national scale. Currently, this concept is being expanded to other areas such as USACE dams, reservoirs, parks, and public and private lands. In June 2016, NAP was selected as an EWN "Proving Ground". This status was conferred on NAP based on their pursuit of EWN practices. ERDC and NAP subsequently began to explore the use of native vegetation on projects as part of an EWN approach."

This ERDC/NAP EWN demostration workshop included 30 participants representing USACE ERDC, Philadelphia District, Saint Louis District, Norfolk District, US Fish and Wildlife Service – New Jersey and Delaware Field Offices, US Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Texas A&M University, and Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) - a non-profit organization. The workshop brought together a diverse group, consisting of engineers, wildlife biologists, marine biologists, soil scientists, and ecologists, promoting collaboration across multiple disciplines. The workshop culminated into a session identifying projects where EWN practices are applicable.

OUTCOMES: Workshop participants gained practical experience in planting and coir log installation techniques. In addition, participants took a tour of the James Farm Ecological Preserve, led by Bob Collins, Program Manager of the CIB. Presentations on the first day of the workshop covered EWN science and engineering applications including, but not limited to: ecosystem basics, site evaluation, biotechnical planting, hard-green structure installation, vegetative survey, plant selection, ecological and regulatory considerations. The workshop successfully promoted EWN principles, while providing opportunities for technology transfer and future collaboration.

NEXT STEPS: The following initiatives will further promote objectives in support of the EWN program:

  1. Direct engagement with NAP to extend applications of vegetation establishment in other projects within their Districts, and possible planting in Mordecai Island (FY 19).
  2. Prepare tech note to highlight lessons learned during the SWG and NAP demo workshops, and benefits of pursuing additional demonstration workshop (FY19-20).
  3. Determine feasibility and interest in conducting similar workshops in Detriot District (FY19).
  4. Development of technical guidance promoting EWN through the use of living shorelines as part of construction, operation, and maintenance of existing and new projects.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL: USACE Philadelphia District & Marine Design Center Flickr photos of EWN workshop and story.

Use or reproduction of any slides/graphics or portions of figures etc. found herein shall contain an acknowledgement of the author/institution and be by permission of the author.

Photo 1
Workshop Participants planting Panicum amarum, during EWN Demo Workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Photo 2
Philadelphia District engineers and biologists placing oyster shells in crevices of existing revetment during EWN demo workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Photo 3
US Fish and Wildlife Service (New Jersey Field Office) Staff planting Juniperus virginiana to stabilize dunes as part of EWN demo workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Photo 4
US Fish and Wildlife Service (Delaware Bay Estuary Program) staff planting Panicum amarum to stabilize dunes as part of EWN demo workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Photo 5
Philadelphia District engineers planting Spartina alterniflora to stabilize dunes as part of EWN demo workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Photo 6
Workshop participants pose for a photo after the planting exercise.
Photo 7
ERDC Workshop facilitators pose for a group photo after the completion of planting, biolog installation, and oyster shell placement. From left, Kevin Philley, Darrel Evans, Tosin Sekoni, and Matthew Balazik.
Photo 8
Workshop participants planted 1,000 herbaceous species (Panicum amarum and Spartina alterniflora) and 40 shrubs and trees (Solidago sempervirens, Juniperus virginiana, and Prunus maritima) during the EWN Demo Workshop in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Photo by Barbara Conlin.
Photo 9
Miranda Ryan and Rachel Schwaab of USACE Norfolk District planting dune grasses in Zone B within the workshop site during the EWN Workshop in Rehoboth Beach, Sussex County, DE.
Photo 10
ERDC scientist teaches participants on site evaluation, planting design, and design implementation at the Center for the Inland Bays, Rehoboth, DE, as part of the EWN demo workshop.

March 13-16, 2017 - ERDC-SWG Demo Workshop on Engineering with Nature, Chocolate Bay, TX (details)

03/13/2017 03/14/2017 03/15/2017 03/16/2017 workshop

Summary: On March 13-16, 2017, the US Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Engineer, Research and Development Center (ERDC) and Galveston District (SWG) conducted a field-based, Engineering with Nature (EWN) workshop that demonstrated how the application of native plant species can enhance engineering objectives while maximizing environmental benefits. The addition of vegetation resulted in nature-based features that enhanced the structural integrity of dikes in placement areas located in the Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, Corpus Christi Bay and surrounding ecosystems. The workshop offered an interagency group field experience with new planting techniques while also providing additional perspectives and instructions for incorporating EWN principles into coastal projects. This is the first in a series of field-based, EWN workshops that will be facilitated by ERDC to train USACE engineers, scientists, and project managers on new techniques to manage dredge material placement areas (DMPAs) using native vegetation.

Planting techniques
Planting native vegetation on DMPAs

Background: In October 2014, SWG was selected as an EWN "Proving Ground". This status recognizes a USACE District for their pursuit of EWN principles and practices. ERDC and SWG subsequently began to explore use of planting native vegetation on DMPAs as part of an EWN approach to managing disposal areas. In March 2016, the USACE and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-National Ocean Service (NOS) conducted a collaboration workshop on Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF). During this workshop, participants identified several NNBF collaborative projects, and the use of native vegetation on DMPAs was identified as a priority for application of EWN principles and practices on a national scale.

This ERDC/SWG EWN workshop included 32 participants representing USACE ERDC, SWG, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service, US Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas General Land Office, and the private sector (e.g., Ecology and Environment, Inc.; and Gahagan & Bryant and Associates, Inc.). The workshop brought together a diverse group, consisting of engineers, landscape architects, marine biologists, soil scientists, and ecologists, which promoted collaboration across multiple disciplines. The four-day workshop culminated into a session identifying projects within Galveston District where EWN practices and techniques are applicable.

Participants
Practical experience onsite

Outcomes: Workshop participants gained practical experience in onsite and offsite harvesting, planting, transplanting, plugging, soil modification, coconut coir log installation, and broadcast seeding techniques. In addition, participants NRG Energy, Inc.'s EcoCenter and met with Dr. Jens Figlus of Texas A&M University-Galveston to learn about the Sargassum-Dune experimental design. Presentations on the first day of the workshop covered EWN science and engineering applications including, but not limited to: biotechnical planting, coir log installation, vegetative surveys, plant selection, ecological and regulatory considerations. The workshop successfully promoted EWN principles, while providing opportunities for technology transfer and future collaboration.

Next Steps: The following initiatives will further promote objectives in support of the DOER program and the EWN focus area:

  1. Direct engagement with SWG District regarding the PA-14 Erodible Berm Project in Galveston Bay.
  2. Prepare ERDC technical note to highlight lessons learned during workshop and benefits of pursuing additional demonstration workshops in the future (FY17/18).
  3. Determine feasibility and interest in conducting similar workshops in Philadelphia and Buffalo District (FY18).
  4. Continued development of technical guidance documents promoting EWN through the establishment of native vegetation as part of DMPA construction and maintenance.

Contact: Please contact Dr. Tosin Sekoni by e-mail or by phone (601-634-3732) if you would like additional information concerning this workshop.

Use or reproduction of any slides/graphics or portions of figures etc. found herein shall contain an acknowledgement of the author/institution and be by permission of the author.

Beneficial Use Site
Beneficial Use Site
Planting Zones
Planting Zones
Plant List
Plant List
Planting Zone 1 & 4
Planting Zone 1 & 4
Planting Zone 2
Planting Zone 2
Planting Zone 3
Planting Zone 3
Photo 6
Photo 6
Photo 7
Photo 7
Photo 8
Photo 8
Photo 9
Photo 9

Videos