Aquaculture farms as nature-based coastal protection: Random wave attenuation by suspended and submerged canopies

Longhuan Zhu, Kimberly Huguenard, Qing-Ping Zou, David W. Fredriksson, Dongmei Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
154 Downloads (Pure)


As the frequency and intensity of storms increase, a growing need exists for resilient shore protection techniques that have both environmental and economic benefits. In addition to producing seafood, aquaculture farms may also provide coastal protection benefits either alone or with other nature-based structures. In this paper, a generalized three-layer frequency dependent theoretical model is derived for random wave attenuation due to presence of biomass within the water column. The biomass can be characterized as submerged, emerged, suspended and floating canopies that can consist of natural aquatic vegetation with potential aquaculture systems of kelp or mussels. The present analytical solutions can reduce to the solutions by Mendez and Losada (2004), Chen and Zhao (2012) and Jacobsen et al. (2019) for submerged rigid aquatic vegetation. The present theoretical model incorporates the motion of these canopies using a cantilever-beam model for slender components and a buoy-on-rope model for elements with concentrated mass and buoyancy. Analytical results are compared with existing laboratory and field datasets for submerged and suspended canopies. The theoretical model was then used (in a case study at a field site in Northeastern US) to investigate the capacity of suspended mussel farms with submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) to dissipate wave energy during a recent storm event. Compared to a dense SAV meadow in shallower water, the suspended aquaculture farms more effectively attenuate random waves with a smaller peak period and the higher frequency components of wave spectrum. The performance of suspended aquaculture farms is less affected by water level changes due to tides, surge and sea level rise, while the wave attenuation performance of SAV decreases with increasing water level due to decreased wave motion near the sea bed. Incorporating suspended aquaculture farms offshore significantly enhance the coastal protection effectiveness of SAV-based living shorelines and extend the wave attenuation capacity over a wider wave period and water level range. The combination of suspended aquaculture farms and traditional living shorelines provides a more effective nature-based coastal defense strategy than the traditional living shorelines alone.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103737
JournalCoastal Engineering
Early online date2 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Aquaculture farm
  • Natural coastal defense
  • Random waves
  • Suspended canopy
  • Vegetation
  • Wave attenuation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering


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