Low-crested coastal defence structures as artificial habitats for marine life: Using ecological criteria in design
Journal article, 2005
Coastal defence structures to protect sedimentary coastlines from erosion and flooding are increasingly common throughout Europe. They will become more widespread over the next 10-30 years in response to rising and stormier seas and accelerating economic development of the coastal zone. Building coastal defences results in the loss and fragmentation of sedimentary habitats and their replacement by artificial rocky habitats that become colonised by algae and marine animals. The engineering design and construction of these structures have received considerable attention. However, the ecological consequences of coastal defences have been less extensively investigated. Furthermore, due to their rapid proliferation, there is a growing need to understand the role of these man-made habitats in the coastal ecosystems in order to implement impact minimisation and/or mitigation measures. As part of the DELOS project, targeted studies were carried out throughout Europe to assess the ecological similarity of low-crested coastal defence structures (LCS) to natural rocky shores and to investigate the influence of LCS design features on the colonising marine epibiota. LCSs can be considered as a relatively poor surrogate of natural rocky shores. Epibiotic communities were qualitatively similar to those on natural rocky shores as both habitats are regulated by the same physical and biological factors. However, there were quantitative differences in the diversity and abundance of epibiota on artificial structures. Typically, epibiotic assemblages were less diverse than rocky shore communities. Also, LCSs offered less structurally complex habitats for colonisation and in some locations experienced higher disturbance than natural shores. We propose several criteria that can be integrated into the design and construction of LCSs to minimise ecological impacts and allow targeted management of diversity and natural living resources. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
EXPOSED ROCKY SHORES
INTERTIDAL COMMUNITY STRUCTURE