Large woody debris (LWD) as biomimetic inspiration for Lake Erie coastal infrastructure

First Author's Department

Civil Engineering & Biology



Document Type



The Ohio Lake Erie shoreline is 75% hardened with rock, steel and concrete and is the most modified shoreline of all the Great Lakes. While shoreline armoring effectively reduces erosion from wave action for coastal properties, this modification disrupts the land-water interface and diversity of nearshore habitat. Historically, natural LWD input from frequent, small-scale windthrows provided structural complexity in habitat and positively affected local hydrodynamic conditions in streams, rivers and lakes, among other ecological benefits. For this reason, large woody debris (LWD) is often used as a natural element for both stream stabilization and habitat creation in stream restoration projects. This project uses the biomimicry process to understand local context and mimic the LWD form of a rootwad for potential use as a structural element in freshwater coastal stabilization and restoration projects. Rootwad structures are 3D printed in ABS and PLA and tested in a recirculating wave flume simulating wave conditions on Lake Erie. Wave attenuation and downstream velocity reduction along the centerline are measured as well as downstream sediment deposition regions roughly characterized. The hope is to assist in the development of a resilient Lake Erie shoreline transformed by modification through coupled natural-built coastal protection structures using the biomimicry process.