The world’s waterfront cities should not be deluged with apparently green developments because they still carry the potential to cause damage to the marine and coastal environment, scientists have warned.
Coastal urban areas all over the world have expanded at an increasingly fast pace in recent years, with developers innovating a variety of ways to try and minimise their impact on natural habitats.
However, an international team of scientists has said the artificial structures and reclaimed land that have resulted are often poor surrogates for the natural environment they replace.
They say that where societal and economic demand makes development inevitable, more attention must be paid to claims over biodiversity gain because a ‘greened’ development will always impinge on natural systems.
The calls are made in a commentary article, accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Ecology and written by eco-engineers, ecologists and marine biologists from the UK, Italy and Malaysia.
Led by researchers from the University of Plymouth, it particularly focuses on the application of so-called integrated greening of grey infrastructure (IGGI).
Despite it already being implemented in many places, they believe there is considerable scope for it to be misused, leading to the ‘greenwashing’ of new developments including seawalls, breakwaters and artificial islands.
Instead, the scientists say it can undoubtedly be used to enhance previously-developed or degraded environments, and those projects should act as a testbed for where IGGI can have a positive – and, just as importantly, a negative – impact.