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Livermore, CA 94550-6710
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Bioengineering Techniques

Soil bioengineering is the use of living plant materials as the primary structural component to reinforce soil and stabilize slopes. The goal of soil bioengineering is the re-establishment of a balanced, living, native community capable of self-repair as it adapts to the land's stresses and requirements.

NRCS also uses bio-technical stabilization, which is the combined use of living vegetation and inert structural components (such as rock, wood, and coir) to reinforce soil and stabilize slopes. These methods are unique technologies, which offer a responsible, attractive, and distinctive approach to land stabilization and habitat restoration.

Bioengineering and bio-technical stabilization have several advantages over traditional structural approaches.

  • Natural Materials: Bioengineering techniques emphasize the use of natural, locally available materials: earth, vegetation, rock, and lumber in contrast to steel and concrete. These materials may be available onsite at no cost.
  • Native Vegetation: Native vegetation is well suited to the climate, soil conditions, and available moisture and is more likely to thrive and provide appropriate habitat for local wildlife species than traditionally used practices and plant species. Use of native vegetation avoids the inadvertent introduction of invasive, non-native species. 
  • Habitat: Soil bioengineering provides for a more diverse plant and wildlife community. Both aquatic and terrestrial habitats are improved.
  • Soil Quality: The dense matrix of roots that hold the bioengineered treatment together also increase the strength and structure of the soil.
  • Water Quality: Water temperature is reduced due to shading. Turbidity and sedimentation are reduced as erosion is slowed.
  • Aesthetics: Bioengineering techniques blend into the landscape and become a vital part of the riparian corridor and plant community.
  • Maintenance: Once vegetation is well established on a soil bioengineering project, it generally becomes self-repairing by regeneration and growth and requires little maintenance. 
  • Cost-Effective: Typical bioengineered structures are more cost-effective than hard engineered structures. Natural materials may also be available onsite at no cost.

Examples of bioengineering techniques:

Bank Shaping and Planting - regrading stream banks and planting.
Brush Mattress - live cuttings cover stream banks and take root.
Dormant Post - woody planting embedded in stream bank.
Joint Planting - woody cuttings installed in riprap joints.
Live Cribwall - interlocking logs planted with cuttings.
Live Facines - branch bundles placed on stream banks.
Live Stakes - dormant live cuttings, usually willow, tamped into soil.
Log and Brush Shelter - log, rock, and brush structures placed at toe.
Rootwads - logs with rootball attached installed on stream bank.
Lunker - wood structure placed at toe.
Toe Protection - rock placed at toe.
Tree Cover - felled trees placed along bank.
Tree Revetment - anchored trees placed along bank.
Vegetated Geogrid - live branch cuttings wrapped with soil in geotextiles.

View examples of each bioengineering technique in our photo gallery

For more information on soil bioengineering, or to inquire about soil bioengineering for your property contact our office.