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Conserving intertidal habitats: What is the potential of ecological engineering to mitigate impacts of coastal structures?
Matthew Perkins, Terence P.T. Ng, David Dudgeon, Timothy C. Bonebrake, Kenneth M.Y. Leung
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Volume: 167, Pages: 504 - 515
Swansea University Author: Matthew Perkins
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DOI (Published version): 10.1016/j.ecss.2015.10.033
Globally, coastlines are under pressure as coastal human population growth and urbanization continues,while climatic change leads to stormier seas and rising tides. These trends create a strong and sustaineddemand for land reclamation and infrastructure protection in coastal areas, requiring enginee...
|Published in:||Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science|
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Globally, coastlines are under pressure as coastal human population growth and urbanization continues,while climatic change leads to stormier seas and rising tides. These trends create a strong and sustaineddemand for land reclamation and infrastructure protection in coastal areas, requiring engineered coastaldefence structures such as sea walls. Here, we review the nature of ecological impacts of coastalstructures on intertidal ecosystems, seek to understand the extent to which ecological engineering canmitigate these impacts, and evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation as a tool to contribute to conservationof intertidal habitats. By so doing, we identify critical knowledge gaps to inform future research.Coastal structures alter important physical, chemical and biological processes of intertidal habitats, andstrongly impact community structure, inter-habitat linkages and ecosystem services while also drivinghabitat loss. Such impacts occur diffusely across localised sites but scale to significant regional and globallevels. Recent advances in ecological engineering have focused on developing habitat complexity oncoastal structures to increase biodiversity. ‘Soft’ engineering options maximise habitat complexitythrough inclusion of natural materials, species and processes, while simultaneously delivering engineeringobjectives such as coastal protection. Soft options additionally sustain multiple services,providing greater economic benefits for society, and resilience to climatic change. Currently however, alack of inclusion and economic undervaluation of intertidal ecosystem services may undermine bestpractice in coastline management. Importantly, reviewed evidence shows mitigation and even restorationdo not support intertidal communities or processes equivalent to pre-disturbance conditions.Crucially, an absence of comprehensive empirical baseline biodiversity data, or data comprising additionalecological parameters such as ecosystem functions and services, prohibits quantification of absoluteand relative magnitudes of ecological impacts due to coastal structures or effectiveness ofmitigation interventions. This knowledge deficit restricts evaluation of the potential of ecological engineeringto contribute to conservation policies for intertidal habitats. To improve mitigation design andeffectiveness, a greater focus on in-situ research is needed, requiring stronger and timely collaborationbetween government agencies, construction partners and research scientists.
Intertidal environment, Coastal engineering, Shore protection, Ecosystem disturbance, Ecological engineering, Conservation
Faculty of Science and Engineering