Eco-engineering creates more sustainable ecosystems for the mutual benefit of society and nature

There is growing concern about the impacts of ocean sprawl (the proliferation of artificial structures in our seas) on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, such as changes in ecological connectivity, facilitation of invasive species and global biotic homogenization. 

Research led by Louise Firth explored how eco-engineering techniques can be used to mimic natural rock pools, pits and crevices on artificial structures. One such structure is the BIOBLOCK, which is a precast habitat enhancement unit that has multiple habitat types for supporting native biodiversity in intertidal habitats. 

Results from the study showed that small-scale engineering interventions can have a significant positive effect on the biodiversity associated with artificial structures, promoting more diverse and resilient communities on local scales.

This knowledge can be applied to the design of multifunctional structures that provide a range of ecosystem services, whilst simultaneously delivering their primary engineering function.

Small-scale engineering interventions can have a significant positive effect on the biodiversity associated with artificial structures

  • Almost 40 per cent of the human population lives within 100km of the coast.
  • Coastal defences are proliferating globally to protect infrastructure and property from rising and stormier seas.
  • Many counties are now boasting > 50 per cent artificial coastlines.
  • These featureless artificial structures often replace natural habitats and represent poor habitat for marine life, often being dominated by invasive and opportunistic species.

The BIOBLOCK, a precast habitat enhancement unit