Eelgrass as nature-based solutions for coastal defence

Title of the research project

SHIEELD – Assessing the value of eelgrass in nature-based coastal defence

Scientific area 

Coastal Engineering, Marine sciences, Fluid mechanics

Marie Curie fellow

Davide Vettori


Coasts worldwide are experiencing ever-increasing flood risk and coastal erosion. To simultaneously enhance the efficiency of coastal defence and improve the ecological status of coastlines, SHIEELD will evaluate the potential of eelgrass as nature-based solutions in coastal defence.

Description of the research project 

Coastal areas are under unprecedented physical and environmental pressures and traditional solutions for coastal protection, such as breakwaters and beach replenishment, are economically and ecologically unsustainable. In this context, eelgrass represent an attractive solution as they can contribute to coastal defence by slowing currents, attenuating waves and stabilising sediments while promoting biodiversity and storing carbon.

The goal of SHIEELD is to assess how eelgrass can contribute to coastal defence by developing a sound understanding of the flow resistance eelgrass impose under a range of conditions representative of eelgrass natural habitats and of the effect eelgrass meadows have on sediment transport processes. To achieve this goal laboratory experiments will be conducted in an open-channel facility using eelgrass surrogates that mimic the behaviour of natural eelgrass species. Moreover, field campaigns in several locations across Europe will be undertaken with the support of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) to evaluate the effects of eelgrass below and aboveground biomass on sediment mobility using an innovative portable flume.

The results of SHIEELD will lead to the development of a policy brief and, hence, enable water managers and policy makers to include eelgrass contribution to coastal defence in coastal policies and management plans.

Impact on fellow career and on society 

The findings of SHIEELD will focus on impacting future environmental policies for coastal areas in such a way that the multidisciplinary value of eelgrass is appropriately accounted for in coastal defence across Europe.

The fellow career will be greatly impacted because SHIEELD will enable him to acquire the necessary skillset to become a leading authority in ecohydraulics and flow-vegetation-sediments interactions. After the fellowship the researcher will be in a very strong position to seek additional funding to pursue further research activities in this topic.

Short CV of Marie Curie fellow 

Davide Vettori obtained his MSc in Environmental Engineering from the Università degli Studi di Padova in 2012. He then moved to the UK where he was awarded his PhD in Engineering from the University of Aberdeen in 2016. From 2017 to 2019 he worked as research associate in the Geography Department at Loughborough University (UK). Since 2019 he is research fellow at the Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering of Politecnico di Torino. He conducts experimental research in environmental fluid mechanics and eco-hydraulics.


Costantino Manes, Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering

Project Partner Organisation

Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)

SHIEELD project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101022685

  • Budget: 183.473 euro
  • Start date: 1/02/2022
  • End date: 31/01/2024