*Plants and animals that live on Britain’s coasts could benefit from changes to the way coastal structures such as seawalls, breakwaters, rock armour and jetties are designed and built.*
*Research by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and Treweek Environmental Consultants, supported by the Environment Agency, has led to the development of recommendations for the design and construction of coastal defence structures.*
The team has produced guidance on how the ‘ecological enhancement’ of hard coastal structures can be embedded in the design and planning process, from conception through to construction.
Past research has found that hard structures are poor ecological substitutes for natural rocky shores, often supporting only a few dominant, opportunistic species such as green algae. The research team assessed the suitability of different materials, surface roughness, positioning and height for coastal habitats. They examined structures across the South West coast, including Ilfracombe in Devon and Newlyn in Cornwall, as well as looking further afield to work from Sydney Harbour in Australia and Seattle Harbour in the USA. They focused on organisms such as barnacles and limpets as these dominate many rocky shore environments and rapidly colonise hard surfaces placed in the sea, including harbour walls. Once these organisms have established themselves, other plants and animals typically follow, to the benefit of species such as salmon. (more…)