Living Seawalls - bringing biodiversity back to coastal infrastructure

Living Seawalls
Published: 13 February 2022
Last edited: 13 February 2022
remove_red_eye 1829 Views

Summary

Across the world, urbanisation is placing marine and coastal habitats under increasing pressure. Seawalls are essential for shoreline protection, recreational activities and renewable energy generation but often lack the structural complexity required to support rich biodiversity. The Living Seawalls project, founded in Sydney, Australia, builds on marine research to design and produce modular ‘habitat tiles’ that mimic the living surface of marine plants and animals. The tiles can be attached to shoreline infrastructure to facilitate the colonisation of intertidal species such as oysters, barnacles, seaweeds and mussels. These species start the growth of an ecosystem by providing food and habitat for marine species and maintaining water quality. Over a thousand panels have been installed globally providing tangible benefits to local marine ecosystems. 

Classifications

Region
Oceania
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Global
Local
Ecosystem
Area-wide development
Coastal forest
Estuary
Mangrove
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Theme
Adaptation
Cities and infrastructure
Coastal and marine spatial management
Disaster risk reduction
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Infrastructure maintenance
Restoration
Science and research
Urban planning
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Monitoring and Research
Species Conservation Planning
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Sustainable urban infrastructure and services
Challenges
Floods
Increasing temperatures
Sea level rise
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Sustainable development goals
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience

Location

Sydney Harbour, Australia

Impacts

The Living Seawall Projects increases awareness of urban expansion impacts on biodiversity in our oceans. The Living Seawall project offers an example solution to remediate the environmental impacts of widespread marine construction and the rapidly declining rates of marine biodiversity.

 

In terms of ecological impact, after two years, the habitat tiles already support a third more species than the bare seawalls that had been there for decades. The panels contain a similar species diversity and quantity to natural rocky reefs nearby. More than a hundred different species of invertebrates and seaweeds were found, and over thirty species of fish used these new ecosystems. The modular design allows for the panels to be tailored to every kind of site, and the tiles can be altered depending on the local ecosystem. So far, ten different surface panels have been designed that mimic various shoreline features such as an oyster reef, roots of a mangrove forest and ‘fingers’ of a sponge structure. The panels are built specifically to provide habitat for native species.

 

With an eye on climate change, bare featureless surfaces like seawalls provide little protection from high temperatures. In pilot sites, the habitat tiles reduced surface temperatures by as much as 10 degrees, proving the project to be an opportunity for sea life climate adaptation as well.

 

 

Contributed by

eline.vanremortel_41284's picture

Eline van Remortel Earthwatch Europe