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Hidden biodiversity in cryptic habitats provided by porous coastal defence structures

Hidden biodiversity in cryptic habitats provided by porous coastal defence structures
Hidden biodiversity in cryptic habitats provided by porous coastal defence structures
In response to flood risk from rising and stormier seas, increasing amounts of natural coastline worldwide are being replaced by a proliferation of coastal defence structures. While the primary role of defence structures is protecting the coastline, consideration should be given to the biological coastal communities they support. Artificial structures are currently seen as poor habitats for marine organisms. They are constructed in harsh coastal environments, lack structural complexity, and are subjected to episodic disturbance from maintenance, reducing their suitability as habitats for coastal species. Recent work has focused on mitigating the impacts of coastal defence structures, through secondary routes such as enhancing biodiversity by encouraging colonisation of marine biota. Research thus far has focused on enhancements to improve structural complexity on the external surfaces of coastal defences. Many structures are porous with internal compartments. To date no work has been undertaken on the habitat provided by the internal surfaces of the blocks used in building structures.

We investigated the role of porous coastal defence structures in habitat provision. Taking advantage of a groyne reduction from 45 m to 20 m length, we surveyed the internal environment of the structure. We also considered the impacts of maintenance activity on coastal assemblages. Our work shows that the internal environment of artificial structures provides functional habitat space supporting higher species richness and diversity than external surfaces. The more benign environment of internal surfaces protects from desiccation stress and is probably less scoured by mobile sediments, and as such is of unrealised importance to coastal assemblages. External surfaces are also subject to high levels of disturbance from maintenance activities, further limiting the potential ecological contribution this area of the artificial habitat might otherwise develop. These findings reveal the multifunctional role of porous coastal defence structures, acting as engineering protection and habitats for coastal assemblages.
Coastal protection, Porous structures, Coastal management, Habitat provision, Biodiversity, Conservation, Multifunctional role
0378-3839
12-20
Sherrard, Talia R.W.
617fd3a5-af70-495d-8bae-e17bf0f1a7b9
Hawkins, Stephen J.
758fe1c1-30cd-4ed1-bb65-2471dc7c11fa
Barfield, Peter
1d4b0b85-db58-4888-a6d9-7880b5bae0fb
Kitou, Matilda
abaf31d5-2896-43ae-95b9-74f59780bd05
Bray, Simon
f6790aaf-2a71-4ca3-a32e-589e88076965
Osborne, Patrick E.
c4d4261d-557c-4179-a24e-cdd7a98fb2b8
Sherrard, Talia R.W.
617fd3a5-af70-495d-8bae-e17bf0f1a7b9
Hawkins, Stephen J.
758fe1c1-30cd-4ed1-bb65-2471dc7c11fa
Barfield, Peter
1d4b0b85-db58-4888-a6d9-7880b5bae0fb
Kitou, Matilda
abaf31d5-2896-43ae-95b9-74f59780bd05
Bray, Simon
f6790aaf-2a71-4ca3-a32e-589e88076965
Osborne, Patrick E.
c4d4261d-557c-4179-a24e-cdd7a98fb2b8

Sherrard, Talia R.W., Hawkins, Stephen J., Barfield, Peter, Kitou, Matilda, Bray, Simon and Osborne, Patrick E. (2016) Hidden biodiversity in cryptic habitats provided by porous coastal defence structures. Coastal Engineering, 118, 12-20. (doi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2016.08.005).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In response to flood risk from rising and stormier seas, increasing amounts of natural coastline worldwide are being replaced by a proliferation of coastal defence structures. While the primary role of defence structures is protecting the coastline, consideration should be given to the biological coastal communities they support. Artificial structures are currently seen as poor habitats for marine organisms. They are constructed in harsh coastal environments, lack structural complexity, and are subjected to episodic disturbance from maintenance, reducing their suitability as habitats for coastal species. Recent work has focused on mitigating the impacts of coastal defence structures, through secondary routes such as enhancing biodiversity by encouraging colonisation of marine biota. Research thus far has focused on enhancements to improve structural complexity on the external surfaces of coastal defences. Many structures are porous with internal compartments. To date no work has been undertaken on the habitat provided by the internal surfaces of the blocks used in building structures.

We investigated the role of porous coastal defence structures in habitat provision. Taking advantage of a groyne reduction from 45 m to 20 m length, we surveyed the internal environment of the structure. We also considered the impacts of maintenance activity on coastal assemblages. Our work shows that the internal environment of artificial structures provides functional habitat space supporting higher species richness and diversity than external surfaces. The more benign environment of internal surfaces protects from desiccation stress and is probably less scoured by mobile sediments, and as such is of unrealised importance to coastal assemblages. External surfaces are also subject to high levels of disturbance from maintenance activities, further limiting the potential ecological contribution this area of the artificial habitat might otherwise develop. These findings reveal the multifunctional role of porous coastal defence structures, acting as engineering protection and habitats for coastal assemblages.

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GR_JoCE_Final_eprints-1.pdf - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 15 August 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 12 September 2016
Published date: 1 December 2016
Keywords: Coastal protection, Porous structures, Coastal management, Habitat provision, Biodiversity, Conservation, Multifunctional role
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 403038
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/403038
ISSN: 0378-3839
PURE UUID: 51d246f2-5021-418f-96a9-c1d666162aa0
ORCID for Patrick E. Osborne: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8919-5710

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Nov 2016 13:46
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:03

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Contributors

Author: Peter Barfield
Author: Matilda Kitou
Author: Simon Bray

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