US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources Website

Tales of the Coast
Sharing the Coast



The coastal zone features many wildlife habitats that are unique to the land-water interface of the coast. Sandy beaches are often used as nesting grounds by a variety of migratory animals. These include sea turtles, birds, marine mammals, and fish. Many of these species are threatened or endangered, including all five species of sea turtle that visits the coasts of the U.S., and birds such as the piping plover, snowy plover, and least tern.

Reefs are unique and vibrant coastal ecosystems. Coral reefs are extremely complex biological communities, and oyster reefs provide habitat for numerous species of microfauna and macrofauna. The rough surface of a reef flat provides a huge surface area for habitation by epifauna, which is especially vital in the marsh-estuarine ecosystem that is often devoid of other hard substrate.

Salt marshes and mangrove coasts are extremely productive nursery grounds for all manner of wildlife. The nutrient-rich sediment and low-energy waters provide food and nesting areas that are critical to birds and marine animals.

The Corps works with other agencies to protect habitat resources by restoring ecosystems and considering the impacts of projects on local wildlife. Carrying out laws including the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 are necessary parts of the Corps' permitting and evaluation processes for coastal projects.

Assateague Salt Marsh

Assateague Salt Marsh
Source: National Park Service


Protecting Endangered Species: Piping plover populations rely on the overwashed landscape of undeveloped Assateague Island for nesting and foraging grounds. Consequently, the Corps uses sand bypassing to nourish Assateague's eroding beaches in part because it avoids placing sediment directly on the beach, which would threaten these endangered birds.