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Seawalls and rockpools

  • by JW

“This project has shown how rockpools can help us to ensure nature can continue to survive in urban coastal spaces.” [Bournemouth University]


Exmouth’s seawall is in a bad state and in need of repair, whist in Sidmouth there have been spats these past five years about what to do with the sea wall on the Esplanade.

Maybe we need to be looking to what has been happening in Poole Harbour, where the BBC Countryfile team were last weekend – and visited artificial rock pools and learnt the results of a trial which uses 3D printed reef blocks on the sea floor, hoping to make sea defences more habitable for marine wildlife. 

As the Guardian reported earlier in the year, artificial rockpools in the south of England successfully attract sea creatures:

“As our coastlines become more developed, marine species are seeing their natural habitats replaced by sea defences which are harder to colonise,” said Jess Bone, a PhD researcher at Bournemouth University. “Sea level rise is also compounding the problem and is squeezing their habitats into smaller and smaller spaces. We wanted to see if giving them more rockpools could offer them a lifeline in the face of these challenges… This project has shown how rockpools can help us to ensure nature can continue to survive in urban coastal spaces. They also give residents a chance to connect with nature, learning more about the wealth of wildlife just off the harbour’s edge and the role it plays in preserving our natural environment.”

Here’s more from the Bournemouth University project on artificial rockpools

The research is looking at how to protect species from ‘coastal squeeze’ – an effect caused by rising sea levels that reduces the habitat of coastal marine life. As sea levels rise, rocky shores are lost where hard sea defences along urban coastlines create a barrier and prevent a natural habitat migration.

The Marineff project (MARine INfrastructure EFFects) is a three year, cross-Channel research project between universities and partners in the South of England and North of France. The project has €4.6million of European Union funding and brings together ecologists and material scientists from French and English universities, industrial partners and other stakeholders to find ways of protecting and enhancing coastal ecosystems.

The BU team has installed nearly 120 artificial rockpools across three UK sites with more due for installation on the north coast of France, and has been monitoring the life found in the pools over the past three years.

Dr Herbert said: “Habitat loss is a serious threat to marine life as coastal development increases and sea level rises with climate warming. We are assessing how artificial rockpools work in practice, how they can be designed for new structures and retro-fitted to existing sea walls and harbours.”

With a nice little video here, showing that BU’s artificial rock pools give a new lease of life to marine species: