A worldwide problem
Ocean sprawl – the proliferation of artificial structures in the marine environment is a global environmental problem. Humans are replacing natural habitats such as beaches, mudflats, seagrass beds, mangroves and rocky shores with hard artificial structures such as seawalls, harbours and rock armouring. Furthermore, there is an increasing number of offshore structures associated with energy extraction and aquaculture.
These artificial environments are typically poor habitat for marine life and can promote the facilitation and spread of opportunistic and invasive non native species. In many regions, artificial structures dominate over 50 per cent of shorelines with myriad impacts on patterns of biodiversity and connectivity both between land and sea, and also within coastal and offshore environments.
Ecological engineering (eco-engineering) – make space for nature in the built environment. It integrates traditional ‘hard’ engineering criteria with ecological principles to create more sustainable ecosystems for the mutual benefit of society and nature.
The Marine Eco-engineering Research Unit team will be submitting a REF Impact Case Study as part of the University of Plymouth REF submission in 2021.
Is there space for nature in the Anthropocene?
Dr Louise Firth's TEDx talk centres on how small-scale engineering interventions can be implemented on seawalls and other artificial marine structures to create suitable habitats for marine life.
Eco-engineering exhibit at National Marine Aquarium
The National Marine Aquarium has unveiled a new exhibit featuring BIOBLOCKS and Reef Cubes.
The University of Plymouth has teamed up with Arc Marine, the National Marine Aquarium and Plymouth City Council to make space for nature on the shore and beneath the waves as part of the regeneration project at Teats Hill.
As part of the project replicas of the BIOBLOCK and reef cubes are on display at the National Marine Aquarium.
Advising the Hong Kong government on eco-engineering of shorelines
Dr Louise Firth and a team of international experts were invited to Hong Kong in May 2018 to advise the Hong Kong government as part of the Ecoshoreline Project, led by Professor Kenny Leung, University of Hong Kong.