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Ecological enhancement techniques to improve habitat heterogeneity on coastal defence structures

Hall, Alice E.; Herbert, Roger J.H.; Britton, J. Robert; Hull, Susan L.


Alice E. Hall

Roger J.H. Herbert

J. Robert Britton

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Dr Sue Hull
Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Ecology/ Programme Director, Marine Biology


Sea level rise and higher storm frequency are increasing the need for the placement of hard coastal defences worldwide. The majority of these defences lack optimal habitats for intertidal species, resulting in low diversity and abundance. The construction of coastal defences within marine protected areas (MPA) is also increasing and
this study investigates ways to limit the loss of species diversity and intertidal habitat caused by installing rock armour defence structures and other coastal developments. Arrays of holes and grooves were created on granite rock armour in the north of England at Runswick Bay, N. Yorkshire and limestone rock groynes in southern
England at Boscombe, Poole Bay, Dorset. Runswick Bay is a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designated for its intertidal habitat and Boscombe is located in close proximity to a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). After 12 months, the treatments had attracted new species to the defence structures and increased the overall diversity and abundance of organisms compared to control areas. Mobile fauna including crabs and fish were also recorded
utilising the holes and grooves at Boscombe. Non-native species were recorded in grooves at one site however their abundance was not significantly different to that of control areas. At the southern site, species known to be spreading in response to climate change were found in treatments but not in control areas. The cost of the installation of these enhancement techniques was low in relation to that of the defence scheme and could be easily incorporated before, during or after construction. Through evaluation of the use of these ecological enhancement techniques on coastal structures, it is suggested that they have considerable potential to increase biodiversity on artificial structures, particularly when used within large-scale coastal engineering defence projects.


Hall, A. E., Herbert, R. J., Britton, J. R., & Hull, S. L. (2018). Ecological enhancement techniques to improve habitat heterogeneity on coastal defence structures. Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 210, 68-78.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 29, 2018
Publication Date Oct 15, 2018
Deposit Date Jun 7, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 16, 2019
Print ISSN 0272-7714
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 210
Pages 68-78
Keywords Aquatic Science; Oceanography
Public URL
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