Biodiversity loss is occurring at a phenomenal rate on a global scale. By 2100 more than half of the planet’s marine species may face extinction without significant changes. Coastal ecosystems are possibly the most threatened of marine systems due to the multitude of pressures focused on the coastal zone. They range from fishing and recreational use to sea-level rise and coastal development. With nearly half of the planet’s human population living along the coast, the number of coastal artificial structures are increasing worldwide. Hard engineering, such as sea defences and shipping infrastructure, has changed over 50% of the coastline in Europe, the USA, Australia and Asia. This reduction in natural coastline coupled with sea level rise leads to a loss in coastal habitat and biodiversity. To mitigate against biodiversity loss, we must find ways to incorporate habitat opportunities in coastal infrastructure.
Compared with eco-engineering techniques in the terrestrial environment, eco-engineering is a relatively new area in the marine environment and many trials have been small-scale and academia based. Relevant literature is often published in journal article format which can be less accessible to coastal managers and engineers. This limited access has impeded the incorporation of eco-engineering in coastal development. Documentation and communication of trials need to be formatted in an appropriate and accessible way for practitioners to understand, which would increase the likelihood of enhancement application.
Funding is another issue with incorporating eco-engineering into coastal infrastructure. Often it is not incorporated within coastal engineering budgets as funding is not available for it. Eco-engineering should be marketed to practitioners in a way that highlights the benefits such as community engagement and bioprotection capabilities. For example, the colonisation of barnacles on concrete can reduce the impacts of weathering and erosion. For enhancement to be embraced by coastal practitioners, trials should incorporate both ecological and engineering elements to ensure replicable results that are feasible, prescriptive, and low-cost.
The Marineff project aims to produce solutions for habitat and biodiversity loss in the coastal zone, from design to delivery. They will be proven to be ecologically viable while appealing to the coastal infrastructure industry as feasible, affordable and easy to incorporate.