The Living Seawall in Plymouth was installed during the summer of 2023
Plymouth is now home to a living seawall after organisations across the world united in an attempt to enhance biodiversity along its waterfront.
A series of specially-designed concrete panels has been installed on the edge of the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park to make new habitats available to a variety of marine flora and fauna.
The panels, developed as a result of extensive scientific research, have been fixed to the seawall close to the Mayflower Steps memorial.
They cover an area spanning 12 × 2 metres, and will be monitored over the coming months to assess any different species of flora and fauna which have taken up residence.
The hope is that they could become home to limpets, barnacles, anemones, seaweeds, sponges and other species commonly found in natural habitats along the South West coastline.
The Living Seawalls in Plymouth installation is the largest of its kind in the UK to date. The project is being led by the University of Plymouth working alongside partners including Living Seawalls, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Plymouth City Council, Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum, Our Only World, The Rock Pool Project, Arup, Swansea University, and Ocean Conservation Trust.
The project is also being supported with funding from the University of Plymouth, Our Only World, Plymouth City Council, Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum, Cattewater Harbour Commissioners, and Associated British Ports (ABP).
Dr Louise Firth, Associate Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Plymouth, has worked on marine eco-engineering initiatives across the world for more than two decade and is leading the new project.

We have been investigating how to enhance biodiversity on seawalls locally for years. These efforts have all been conducted at small, experimental scales but the Living Seawall in Plymouth is the first large, real-world-scale installation in Britain. We are very excited to work with the global community to build the evidence about the ecological benefits for both new and existing artificial structures.

Louise FirthLouise Firth
Associate Professor of Marine Ecology

The Living Seawalls initiative was first launched in Sydney, Australia, in an attempt to preserve habitats along the global coastline.
Rising populations have resulted in structures such as seawalls, pilings, pontoons and marinas replacing natural habitats such as saltmarshes, beaches, mudflats and rocky shores and their associated marine life.
Research in Sydney Harbour has shown that after two years, Living Seawalls already support at least 36% more species than plain, unmodified seawalls, with as many as 85 species of invertebrates, seaweeds and fish living and growing on the panels.

Built structures are a growing source of biodiversity loss in our harbours and coastal oceans. Living Seawalls provide a solution for returning marine life to marine constructions across the globe. We are excited to partner with the University of Plymouth on the most comprehensive trial of Living Seawalls technology in the UK yet.

Professor Melanie Bishop, Co-founder of Living Seawalls
The Living Seawall in Plymouth was installed during the summer of 2023
The Living Seawall in Plymouth was installed during the summer of 2023
The Living Seawall in Plymouth was installed during the summer of 2023

Looking after our marine life is a key objective for our National Marine Park so I'm really pleased to see this project come to fruition. Plymouth leads the way in the fields of ocean science, conservation and technology. We are so lucky to have a plethora of committed organisations and knowledgeable individuals here in our city, all pulling together on initiatives that make a difference to habitats in Plymouth Sound.

Councillor Tom Briars-Delve, Cabinet member for the Environment and Climate Change at Plymouth City Council

It has been fantastic to see such an innovative idea take shape and move on to the installation stage. It will be even better to see how the habitats and ecosystems develop and become self-sustaining in time, and we need to give a big thanks to DPD for their generous donation which has helped to fund this project. It's been a privilege to be part of this project and work with all the organisations involved. Let's hope that this inspires other harbours and that it will spread throughout the South West.

Tina Robinson, Founder of Our Only World

The Living Seawall in Plymouth project represents the transformative impact of cross-sector collaboration to support nature. As organisations become increasingly aware of the biodiversity crisis, and the role we each have to play in moving towards a nature-positive future, integrated and collaborative solutions are essential. Drawing on Arup’s experience with Living Seawalls in Sydney and Wales, it has been an honour to play a part in Plymouth’s biodiversity revival and a privilege to help the area achieve a healthier, more resilient marine environment. This project is a testament to the University of Plymouth’s leadership in the marine ecology space, navigating complex solutions that let our natural environments thrive.

Austin Brown, Associate at Arup

We are really pleased to be able to support the project, and the Living Seawall is a great way of showing some of the biodiversity that lives on our local coast. The panels, which are the equivalent of a bug hotel on land, add much-needed complexity to the wall, which will allow lots of amazing ocean plants and creatures to live there. The National Marine Aquarium will be displaying some of these panels in our Plymouth Sound exhibit, so you can come and see them even when the tide is in and learn more about these amazing structures and why they are important. We look forward to seeing what sort of things grow on the panels and what animals start to call them home.

Helen Reed, Public and Community Engagement Manager at the Ocean Conservation Trust

Cattewater Harbour Commissioners are very pleased to be supporting the installation of the Living Seawall in Plymouth within Cattewater harbour. Maintaining a healthy, functioning environment is of critical importance to our port activities and we look forward to seeing what marine life colonises the panels.

Sean Marshall, the Deputy Harbour Master who led the installation on behalf of the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners

ABP is proud to be collaborating with the Living Seawall in Plymouth project. This alliance is an important step towards fostering a sustainable future and preserving our native marine ecosystems. These innovative structures promote biodiversity resilience as well as community engagement and through this joint endeavour, ABP reaffirms its commitment to environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Adrian Buss, Operations Manager at ABP’s Port of Plymouth

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