Strategies included breakwaters and gradually sloping horizontal levees that encourage tidal marsh growth while providing increased storm surge protection.

We also proposed flood retention facilities that double as shorebird habitat, as well as targeting ecotourism investment into select communities.

Sponge Cities and Ecotourism: Opportunities for Integrated Land Use and Design Strategies

Xinghua Bay, China



3-person team in UC Berkeley's environmental planning studio


4 weeks

Integrated Design & Land Use Policy

Coastal Infrastructure Design

Cartography and Illustration

Satellite Imagery Processing

(all graphics by Allan Kapoor unless otherwise noted)






On the coast of Fujian province in China, Xinghua Bay is experiencing intense pressure to fill and develop tidal marshes, which will ultimately destroy valuable habitat for the Black-faced Spoonbill, an endangered shorebird, and increase sea level rise risk in the future.

At the same time, the national government is promoting the Sponge Cities initiative, an attempt to reduce urban flooding and water pollution through the large-scale implementation of green infrastructure.

The national government is also seeking to harness growing domestic interest in ecotourism as a driver of sustainable economic development for rural areas.


Our project proposes a series of policies and physical design strategies that integrate Sponge City green infrastructure objectives and ecotourism development with habitat preservation as an alternative to unsustainable coastal real estate development.


Graphic by Yang Liu


These two strategies work in tandem to create habitat and protect development from storm surges. Breakwaters trip waves offshore calming water enough for marshes to develop on engineered slopes.

Breakwater Design Concept

Graphic inspiration from Living Breakwater by SCAPE

Horizontal Levee Design Concept


Green spaces already included in proposed developments can be designed to store floodwater, support wildlife, and provide recreation space. Raised walkways for and buffer ponds ensure that shorebirds are not disturbed by human presence.

Graphic by Yang Liu


We suggested suitable villages for ecotourism investment from national government programs based on: proximity to forests larger than 25 acres, proximity to mudflat habitats larger than 10 acres, and the presence of traditional fishpond farming.

Fishponds, forests, and mudflat datasets were created from scratch by combining different bands of satellite imagery and training ArcGIS to identify specific land use types. 


Ecoparks, ecovillages, horizontal levees work together to protect development, create habitat, and boost the local economy.

Graphic by Yang Liu

© 2018 Allan Kapoor