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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 management and administration.  In addition to overseeing day to day delivery of activities, the management team will coordinate and support a Steering Committee comprising representatives of key public and private stakeholders.  The Steering Committee will provide guidance and advice on the direction and focus of the operation.

The Ecostructure research team and steering group at the
second annual project meeting, Cork June 2018

Work package 2: Ecological condition of coastal structures:

Artificial coastal structures can serve as analogues to natural rocky shores and reefs, supporting superficially similar ecological communities. However, ecological communities in general differ on artificial structures from those in natural habitats, 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 overarching goal of promoting ecologically-sensitive design of artificial structures in the marine environment.

Objective of WP2

Work package 2 will characterise key intrinsic features of existing artificial structures in the Irish Sea and the environmental contexts in which they are placed.  This will enable identification of the features that are associated with minimal impacts on natural ecosystems that may also give rise to conservation and societal benefits.

Mapping coastal structures on the Co. Cork coastline using Lidar technology

To reach the above objectives, WP2 will:

  • Map and characterise the intrinsic and extrinsic features of coastal structures in the study area, producing GIS maps and images of the structures themselves.
  • Sample biota to compare ecosystem patterns and processes on selected structures and nearby natural analogues.
  • Mode relationships between biota and ecosystems to indicate which features in which contexts would minimise impacts / maximise benefits for biodiversity, thus enabling prediction of the biological communities and ecosystem services supported by coastal structures.

Work package 3: Building-in ecologically-sensitive design:

Research has shown that it is possible to promote biodiversity on artificial coastal structures through engineering design interventions, with potential for achieving associated socio-economic benefits – this is called ecological engineering (or eco-engineering). Although a wealth of ‘proof-of-concept’ evidence exists globally, eco-engineering designs have rarely been implemented in full-scale developments and many questions remain about their potential value and scope of application. A survey of stakeholder opinions in England and Wales indicated that a lack of awareness of and confidence in the evidence supporting these eco-engineering solutions is a key barrier to their implementation.

Aberystwyth’s Pippa Moore checking out one of the artificial rock pools installed and studied as part of Ecostructure

Objective of WP3

Work package 3 will bring together ecological engineering evidence from research trials around the world and promote it via an evolving catalogue of eco-engineering solutions that may be evaluated on the basis of their predicted effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, cost and strength of evidence. Additional evidence will be generated through experimental trials of existing and new eco-engineering designs deployed in artificial structures in the Irish Sea.

To achieve the above objectives, WP3 will:

  • Collate a catalogue of tried-and-tested eco-engineering interventions with an evaluation of the evidence supporting their efficacy.
  • Test existing eco-engineering interventions in Irish Sea artificial structures to assess their performance under different environmental conditions.
  • Design and test new eco-engineering interventions in Irish Sea artificial structures.
  • Promote evolving catalogue of eco-engineering solutions to industry and practitioners in the Irish Sea and beyond through knowledge exchange workshops.

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 ecosystem functioning. 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-native species by providing stepping stones of suitable habitat for fouling organisms.

Joe Ironside (Aberystwyth University) examines non-native carpet sea squirt growing
on the underside of a marina

Objectives of WP4

Work package 4 will address the above issues by investigating the distribution patterns and genetic structure of non-native species in relation to artificial structures around the Irish Sea and determine mechanisms by which artificial structures facilitate the introduction and secondary spread of non-natives.

To achieve the above objectives, WP4 will:

  • Develop a tool for predicting effects of coastal structures on dispersal and gene flow of native and non-native species.
  • Develop biosecurity devices and protocols for ports and marinas.
  • Create tools for early warning and rapid response to non-native species

Work package 5: Society, economy and governance:

Coastal defence structures play an important role in protecting lives and property from the impacts of climate change, while marine renewable energy generation forms an important element of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, both types of development can have negative impacts on coastal ecosystems and associated industries (e.g. tourism, fishing). In order to maximise the positive effects of new and existing developments, it is important to take opportunities to enhance their economic, environmental and cultural value to coastal stakeholders.

WP5 researcher Aoife Corcoran in Prestatyn, Wales engaging the local
community with the Ecostructure project

Objective of WP5

Work Package 5 will address stakeholder engagement with coastal development and its socio-economic impacts, developing a collaborative approach to ensure that proposed eco-engineering solutions for coastal structures provide maximum benefit to all communities of interest.

To reach the above objectives, WP5 will:

  • Analyse community needs.
  • Assess management priorities for coastal infrastructure.
  • Develop a GIS based online mechanism for interactions with stakeholders.
  • Develop an Ecostructure stakeholder network.

Work package 6: Technology transfer and dissemination:

In order to support effective and inclusive decision making with regards to the ecologically sensitive design of our coastal infrastructure it is important to communicate and disseminate the projects outputs to relevant audiences, which include: public authorities with relevance to European Directives (e.g. MSFD, MSP), private sector organisations in relevant industries (e.g. construction, shipping, fishing, tourism), academics in related fields, and the general public.

Ecostructure researchers from Bangor University, Swansea University, and University College Cork at EWTEC 2017

Objective of WP 6

Work Package 6 will raise awareness of the tools and resources produced by Ecostructure, encouraging uptake and use by those with the greatest potential to benefit from them. WP6 is closely aligned to WP 5 and primarily functions in support of all other work packages.

To reach the above objectives WP 6 will:

  • Develop an internal dissemination plan to support project partners outreach and communication activities.
  • Develop and manage the project website.
  • Utilise Ecostructure social media platforms to engage with a wide range of audiences and to disseminate project information instantly.
  • Develop project factsheets with key project information for specific identified audiences.
  • Develop a yearly E-Newsletter summarising project progress to date for project stakeholders.