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.