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Between a rock and a hard place: environmental and engineering considerations when designing coastal defence structures


Firth, LB and Thompson, RC and Bohn, K and Abbiati, M and Airoldi, L and Bouma, TJ and Bozzeda, F and Ceccherelli, VU and Colangelo, MA and Evans, A and Ferrario, F and Hanley, ME and Hinz, H and Hoggart, SPG and Jackson, JE and Moore, P and Morgan, EH and Perkol-Finkel, S and Skov, MW and Strain, EM and van Belzen, J and Hawkins, SJ, Between a rock and a hard place: environmental and engineering considerations when designing coastal defence structures, Coastal Engineering, 87 pp. 122-135. ISSN 0378-3839 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2013.10.015


Coastal defence structures are proliferating as a result of rising sea levels and stormier seas. With the realisation that most coastal infrastructure cannot be lost or removed, research is required into ways that coastal defence structures can be built to meet engineering requirements, whilst also providing relevant ecosystem services—so-called ecological engineering. This approach requires an understanding of the types of assemblages and their functional roles that are desirable and feasible in these novel ecosystems. We review the major impacts coastal defence structures have on surrounding environments and recent experiments informing building coastal defences in a more ecologically sustainable manner. We summarise research carried out during the THESEUS project (2009–2014) which optimised the design of coastal defence structures with the aim to conserve or restore native species diversity. Native biodiversity could be manipulated on defence structures through various interventions: we created artificial rock pools, pits and crevices on breakwaters; we deployed a precast habitat enhancement unit in a coastal defence scheme; we tested the use of a mixture of stone sizes in gabion baskets; and we gardened native habitat-forming species, such as threatened canopy-forming algae on coastal defence structures. Finally, we outline guidelines and recommendations to provide multiple ecosystem services while maintaining engineering efficacy. This work demonstrated that simple enhancement methods can be cost-effective measures to manage local biodiversity. Care is required, however, in the wholesale implementation of these recommendations without full consideration of the desired effects and overall management goals.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ecological engineering, coastal protection, habitat enhancement, biodiversity, conservation, BIOBLOCK
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Strain, EM (Dr Beth Strain)
ID Code:141423
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:202
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2020-10-20
Last Modified:2021-09-22

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