How coconuts could help restore shorelines on Prince Edward Island

A wildlife group in Souris, P.E.I. has turned to an unusual material to help restore shorelines in the area — It is testing out coir, or coconut fibre, made from the outer husk of the coconut.

The wildlife group is using the coconut fibre to create what’s called a living shoreline, in part to help combat coastal erosion on the Souris River.

“Down where they do produce coconuts it’s a waste product,” said Frances Braceland, project manager with the Souris and Area branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

“The benefit is it’s natural and biodegradable and it’s a very tough fibre so in terms of saltwater marsh restoration it’s an ideal product to use.”

“It’s been used fairly commonly down in the U.S.A. and it’s starting to be used more and more,” Braceland said, who first heard about coconut fibre at a conference in New Orleans.

“Particularly in Louisiana and Delaware, places like that where there’s a lot of oil activities or a lot of boat wakes,” she said.

The Souris group will test three different methods of creating living shorelines.

In one section of the river, the coconut fibre has been rolled into logs and laid down to form a retaining wall, three logs high.

“There are so many benefits to restoring a saltwater marsh in terms of your water quality,” Braceland said.

“And when you take the sediments out of the river channel, it improves fish passage.”

In a second area, the crew is putting oyster shells into jute bags that are then wrapped in coconut fibre mats to form another kind of retaining wall.

They’re also testing spruce boughs, something the group has used before to rebuild shorelines.