IECA Pulse: Harnessing Biotechnical and Bioremediation Strategies for Erosion Control with Structural Plant-Based Solutions

By Jerry B. Sanders,CPESC posted Oct 31, 2023 12:03 PM


Erosion is a natural process, but when it occurs at an accelerated rate due to human activities, it can have devastating consequences for the environment. Traditional methods of erosion control often involve hard engineering solutions like concrete structures and artificial barriers. While effective, these solutions can be expensive and detrimental to the environment. Fortunately, there's a more sustainable and natural approach to erosion control: bioengineering techniques.

Bioengineering techniques leverage the power of nature to combat erosion and sediment runoff. In this blog post, we'll explore how these techniques work and why they are gaining popularity in the world of environmental conservation.

The Basics of Bioengineering Techniques

Bioengineering, also known as biotechnical or biological engineering, involves using living plants and other natural materials to stabilize soil and reduce erosion. These techniques mimic the processes found in natural ecosystems, providing a sustainable and effective approach to erosion control. Here are some of the key bioengineering methods:

1. Live Staking: Live staking involves planting live cuttings or branches of specific plant species directly into erodible soil. As these cuttings root and grow, they create a natural barrier against erosion.

2. Coir Logs: Coir logs are cylindrical structures made from coconut fiber (coir) that are placed in channels and areas prone to erosion. They provide structural support while allowing vegetation to establish itself.

3. Brush Layering: This technique involves placing branches, twigs, and other woody debris in layers on the eroding site. These layers slow down the flow of water and trap sediment, promoting the establishment of vegetation.

4. Vegetated Reinforced Soil: This technique combines soil and vegetation with engineered elements like geotextiles to create stable, vegetated slopes that resist erosion.

5. Biodegradable Erosion Control Blankets: These blankets are made from natural materials like jute or straw and provide temporary protection to newly seeded areas. Over time, they degrade, leaving behind a well-established natural cover.

Why Choose Bioengineering?

  1. Environmental Benefits: Bioengineering techniques are inherently eco-friendly. They use natural materials, promote biodiversity, and help restore damaged ecosystems.
  2. Cost-Effective: Bioengineering can often be more cost-effective than traditional hard engineering solutions. The materials used are typically readily available and inexpensive.
  3. Adaptability: These techniques are adaptable to various landscapes and ecosystems, making them a versatile choice for erosion control in diverse environments.
  4. Long-Term Solutions: Bioengineering methods create sustainable, long-term solutions. Once established, the natural vegetation continues to protect against erosion and sedimentation.
  5. Aesthetic Value: Bioengineering can enhance the visual appeal of an area, making it more attractive to the community.

Successful Applications of Bioengineering

Bioengineering techniques have been successfully applied in numerous projects worldwide. For instance, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, live staking and coir logs have been used to restore streambanks, protecting vital salmon habitat. In Europe, brush layering has been employed to stabilize eroding hillsides and reduce sediment runoff into sensitive aquatic ecosystems.

By harnessing the power of nature, bioengineering techniques offer a sustainable and effective means of erosion control. Whether you're an environmental enthusiast, a landowner looking to protect your property, or a conservationist working on restoration projects, consider incorporating these natural methods into your erosion control efforts. With bioengineering, we can help nature heal itself and combat erosion in a way that benefits us all.

Remember, when it comes to preventing erosion, nature often provides the best solutions.




Nov 01, 2023 02:27 PM


Thank you for providing the clarification and added information concerning Soil Bioengineering.  I have checked out the web site you referenced and found it very informative.  It is my hope that more of the IECA membership will jump in on this subject and go to the referenced site to see some of the tremendous work in natural erosion control methods that is being done and how it can relate to similar work efforts in their area of the globe. 

Thank you again for jumping in and providing your thoughts and reference material.  I encourage everyone to check out the sites referenced by Kelvin and hope that if any of our members have additional thoughts or informational sites, they think would be beneficial for the membership to know about, that they would post them. 

It is amazing how much information is out there, if we will just help one another find it. 

Jerry B.Sanders

Nov 01, 2023 07:00 AM

The term should be soil bioengineering. The term bioengieering itself is considering also in medicine and other fields. It´s importante to also clarify the term Nature-based solution coined by UICN (,simultaneously%20benefiting%20people%20and%20nature). Soil bioengineering can be introduce perfectly in this spectrum of definition, but is needed at least by IECA practioners to have a guideline definitions in order to not have an audience confused.

Ph.D. Kelvin Reyes

Iberoamerican Chapter