The principal outputs of Ecostructure are stakeholder-focussed tools and resources, designed to raise awareness and facilitate uptake of opportunities to employ coastal eco-engineering solutions to climate change adaptation. Each output will be accompanied by a targeted awareness-raising initiative, using social media, fact sheets, e-newsletters and Ecostructure’s own innovative GIS-based information gathering and transfer mechanism to connect with potential end-users.
Work package 1: Operation leadership and management:
Work package 1 underpins the ECOSTRUCTURE operation by providing operation management and administration as well as steering meetings and supporting our steering group.
Work package 2: Ecological condition of coastal structures:
Artificial coastal structures can serve as analogues to natural hard substrata, supporting superficially similar ecological communities. However, there is evidence that that these communities can differ from those on natural surfaces, with potentially important consequences for coastal biodiversity and ecosystem services. Characterising these differences in the context of the Irish Sea forms a key step towards Ecostructure’s overall goal of using good design to maximise the ecological value of coastal structures in terms of natural capital and green infrastructure. This work package will evaluate the roles of a number of key factors in shaping the biological communities which colonise artificial structures and quantify how the resulting communities affect ecosystem services. This information will then be used (in WP3) to inform interventions to maximise the ecological value of new and existing structures.
Work package 3: Building-in ecologically-sensitive design:
Although a wealth of ‘proof-of-concept’ evidence exists globally to support methods of enhancing engineered coastal structures to provide secondary ecological benefits, these methods have rarely been implemented in full-scale developments. A preliminary survey of stakeholders in England and Wales in 2015 indicated that a lack of awareness of this evidence for the efficacy of ecological enhancements is a key barrier to their implementation. This work package will bring together ecological engineering evidence from around the world and communicate it via an evolving catalogue of off-the-shelf enhancement ‘products’ that may be evaluated for implementation on the basis of their predicted effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, cost and scope of application.
Work package 4: Non-native species and biosecurity:
The introduction, spread and establishment of non-native species, facilitated by the continued expansion of global trade and transportation networks, presents one of the biggest global threats to biodiversity and associated functioning of ecosystems. Ports and marinas are particularly susceptible to the introduction of non-native species owing to the lack of boundaries in our oceans and coastal seas, and the free movement of commercial and recreational vessels, which transport non-native organisms in their ballast waters and as fouling on their hulls. Increased frequencies of extreme events (storms, precipitation) and gradual climate warming have enhanced the likelihood of introduction and secondary spread of non-natives in coastal seas. Increases in hard structures such as coastal defences, built as a consequence of climate change, also potentially facilitate the secondary spread of non-natives species by providing stepping stones of suitable habitat for fouling organisms. Work package 4 will address these issues by investigating the distribution patterns and genetic structure of non-native species in relation to artificial structures around the Irish Sea and determining mechanisms by which artificial structures facilitate the introduction and secondary spread of non-natives.
Work package 5: Society, economy and governance:
Stakeholders in coastal areas can perceive environmental and land use policies as pressures and as drivers of change that can be negative as well as positive. Hard coastal defences play an important role in protecting lives and property from the impacts of climate change while development of marine renewable energy forms an important element of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, both types of development can produce negative effects upon the coast’s ecological status and associated industries (e.g. tourism, fishing). The ecosystem approach to integrated coastal zone management adopted in Ireland and Wales attempts to reconcile these competing interests. With regard to coastal infrastructure, an important element of this process will be to maximise the positive effects of new and existing developments by building in measures to enhance their economic, environmental and cultural value to coastal stakeholders. Work Package 5 will assess the socio-economic impacts of recent coastal defence projects, in particular those impacts arising from the ecosystem effects of coastal defences. Given the growing importance of coastal defences worldwide, the establishment of enterprises with expertise in ecological enhancement of coastal defences also holds potential commercial benefits for the Wales-Ireland region. This work package will explore the potential global market for these products and services, with a view to establishing Welsh and Irish enterprises as world leaders in this area.
Work package 6: Technology transfer and dissemination:
This work package will communicate and disseminate project findings and outputs to audiences, including public authorities with relevance to European Directives (e.g. MSFD, MSP), private sector organizations in relevant industries (e.g. construction, shipping, fishing, tourism), academics in related fields, and the general public. The primary aim of Work Package 6 is to raise awareness of the tools and resources produced by the Ecostructure operation, ensuring that they are taken up by and used by those with the greatest potential to benefit from them and WP6 is therefore closely working with WP5.