Marineff project was awarded a top prize at the CIRIA Biodiversity Interest Group (BIG) Biodiversity Challenge Awards, an independent industry-led awards which recognise organisations and individuals that champion biodiversity in the built environment.
The winners were announced on 15 September, with project Marineff winning the category Habitat Creation: Project of the Year Award for small scale enhancement.
The award recognised a breakthrough for Marineff project partner Bournemouth University, which has successfully created 90 artificial rockpools along more than 200m of concrete seawall at two sites on the English South Coast, resulting in exciting uplift in marine biodiversity and a new species record.
Marineff is a cross-Channel collaboration bringing industry-based and academic partners together to explore habitat creation on manmade coastal structures. The aim is to demonstrate the efficacy of larger scale eco-engineering installations, such as those created to protect against coastal erosion.
Since installation in July 2020, an additional 11 species and 18 species have been identified on the seawall at the Bouldnor (Isle of Wight) and Sandbanks (Poole Harbour) sites respectively, due entirely to the rockpools, including a new species recorded at Poole Harbour.
The judges said: “Coastal habitats are often neglected, out of sight out of mind, this initiative not only provided habitat enhancements but provided the monitoring to demonstrate success and to encourage wider uptake. This is taking an innovation that was demonstrated at a small scale and scaling up for greater impact, this could be scaled again and we would encourage the entrants to seek UK wide opportunities.”
The project was also recognised for its use of low-carbon concrete and re-used materials, such as bubble wrap during the manufacture process for the rockpools.
Project Marineff explained that: “This helped enhance biodiversity on the seawalls as rockpools provide additional habitat for a range of species: the exterior of the rockpools offers refuge space for snails and limpets while the interior texture allows for seaweed and barnacle attachment. The installations also provide a 10 cm deep pool of seawater which can be inhabited by crabs, fish and prawns.”
On the other side of the Channel, another breakthrough has been made by project lead partner ESITC Caen. Between autumn 2020 and spring 2021, breakwater blocks – a structure used in coastal engineering to prevent coastal erosion, were deployed on the coast of Normandy, in both Cherbourg and the Bay of Seine.
In addition to the rich biodiversity that is now seen in these areas, the latest observation of the modules this summer proved particularly surprising, as the research team at University of Caen Normandy were able to witness fish nesting in one of the blocks.
The Corkwing wrasse – a species found in the north of France which usually nest in rock crevices – used the gutter of the breakwater block to build a nest of seaweed. This was facilitated by the presence of a metal loop – installed to aid the team in moving the block – as a stabiliser.
Once the nest is completed, the female wrasse lays her eggs and the male quickly follows to fertilise them.
This fascinating process has been captured by the University of Caen Normandy. You can watch commented footage below: