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© 1996, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide describes bioengineering techniques for hillslope, streambank and lakeshore erosion control. Tips for a successful bioengineering installation and demonstration project are described. Soil erosion occurs whenever water meets land with enough force to move soil. Often this occurs along streambanks and lakeshores or where excess water flows over hillslopes. While streambank and hillslope erosion can be dramatic, especially after large rainfalls or floods, normal streamflows, excess runoff from urbanized areas and wave action along lakeshores continually erode soil. Erosion can be severe, as is the case in many man-made lakes, where shorelines are composed of easily erodible soil. Traditional methods of controlling streamflow and wave induced erosion have relied on structural practices like rip rap, retaining walls and sheet piles. In many cases these methods are expensive, ineffective or socially unacceptable. An alternative approach is bioengineering, a method of construction using live plants alone or combined with dead or inorganic materials, to produce living, functioning systems to prevent erosion, control sediment and provide habitat. Bioengineering uses combinations of structural practices and live vegetation to provide erosion protection for hillslopes, streambanks and lakeshores. Bioengineering is a diverse and multi-disciplinary field, requiring the knowledge of engineers, botanists, horticulturalists, hydrologists, soil scientists and construction contractors. It is a rapidly growing field, subject to innovations and changing design specifications. Terms such as biotechnical erosion control, biostabilization or soil-bioengineering are often used synonymously with bioengineering.