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ECOSTRUCTURE was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme 2014-2020.
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Ecostructure was an interdisciplinary European research project that ran from 2017 to 2022 which explored eco-engineering and biosecurity solutions for coastal adaptation to climate change. Ecostructure brought together key research institutions from both sides of the Irish Sea, including Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, and Swansea University in Wales, and University College Dublin and University College Cork in Ireland. The project was funded by the INTERREG Ireland-Wales Cooperation Programme.
The principal outputs of Ecostructure are stakeholder-focused tools and resources, designed to raise awareness and facilitate uptake of opportunities to employ coastal eco-engineering solutions to climate change adaptation.
Eco-engineering brings ecologically-sensitive design to artificial coastal structures
The construction of sea walls, breakwaters, groynes and other forms of coastal defences to protect homes and infrastructure from erosion and the impacts of climate change has led to extensive modification of the Irish Sea coast. The Irish Sea also offers huge opportunities for the expansion of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy generation, which will lead to modification of the seabed through the construction of rock-armour scour defences for pylons and anchor cables.
Eco-engineering is a nature-based approach that can mitigate some of the harmful effects of necessary coastal and marine construction on coastal ecosystems. It can also introduce secondary benefits to coastal communities in the form of green spaces, increased water quality and habitats for valuable fish and shellfish, increased biodiversity, and higher abundance of commercially important species such as lobsters. Ecostructure has generated new evidence for eco-engineering approaches that improve the value of artificial structures as habitats for marine wildlife. Learn more about our research here.
Managing Invasive Species
Predicting, detecting and controlling the spread of marine invasive non-native species
Invasive non-native species often colonise artificial coastal structures, especially in ports and marinas where high levels of boat traffic can introduce species from all over the world. Artificial structures such as rock armour sea defences and the scour defences of wind turbines also have the potential to act as stepping-stones for rocky reef non-natives across areas of unsuitable habitat, such as sand, mud or open water.
The Ecostructure project has investigated the role played by artificial coastal and marine structures in the introduction and spread of non-native species in the Irish Sea. It has also raised awareness of the threat of marine invasive non-native species and developed tools and resources to allow practitioners to prevent the arrival of non-native species through biosecurity measures and detection before they have become established.
Learn more about our research here.
Ecostructure project researchers created a variety of tools and outputs that can be used by coastal managers, researchers, and practitioners to increase uptake of opportunities to employ coastal eco-engineering solutions to climate change adaptation and support evidence-based planning and decision-making for marine artificial structures.
A guide produced by Arup for Ecostructure compiles and describes the main Ecostructure project outputs to allow practitioners to understand the research objectives of each one, main findings and how they can be used in practice to support decision making: https://ecostructureproject.aber.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Ecostructure-Output-Guide.pdf
Find Ecostructure’s tools and outputs at https://ecostructure.aber.ac.uk/tools.
View all Ecostructure publications at https://ecostructureproject.aber.ac.uk/publications/.
POLICY BRIEF: Policies & Legal Instruments Supporting the Eco-Engineering of Marine Artificial Structures
These two policy briefs highlight pathways through which coastal eco-engineering could be incorporated in Ireland and Wales. The briefs identify legal requirements, policies, and management practices that could support the uptake of eco-engineering in planning, while simultaneously aligning with EU (Ireland) and UK (Wales) policies on biodiversity and climate change adaptation.
Transdisciplinary research: can citizen science support effective decision-making for coastal infrastructure management?
Front. Mar. Sci., 2022.
Replicating natural topography on marine artificial structures – A novel approach to eco-engineering
Ally J. Evans, Peter J. Lawrence, Atteyeh S. Natanzi, Pippa J. Moore, Andrew J. Davies, Tasman P. Crowe, Ciaran McNally, Brian J. Thompson, Amy E. Dozier, Paul R. Brooks.
Ecological Engineering, 2021
Peter J. Lawrence , Ally J. Evans , Tim Jackson-Bué , Paul R. Brooks, Tasman P. Crowe , Amy E. Dozier, Stuart R. Jenkins , Pippa J. Moore , Gareth J. Williams and Andrew J. Davies.
Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 2021.
Fact Sheets & Field Guides
The introduction and spread of invasive non-native species presents one of the biggest global threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. Invasive species have a tendency to spread to the point that they threaten the survival of native wildlife or damage the environment, economy, or human health. We’ve created a fact sheet to help you learn more about marine invasive species, as well as what we’re researching and what you can do to prevent their spread. Print this fact sheet for your students, organisation or business, or have a read through yourself.
- Suitable for schools and classes
- Great for workshops
Much of Ecostructure’s research involves the use of environmental DNA, or eDNA, and DNA barcoding. Learn about these two concepts and how we employ them in this fact sheet pack, suitable for young adults and adults who want to learn more about how genetics is used to identify marine invasive nonnative species. Download the fact sheets in English and Welsh below.
- Suitable for college-aged students
Ecostructure conducted a citizen science intiative to contribute sightings of seashore snails along the Irish Sea. As part of this Seashore Snail Survey, we created a handy field guide to help you identify common snails found on rocky shores. Learn to spot the dogwhelk, purple topshell, and toothed topshell with this printable guide.
- Great for families and students
We installed information boards to explain and accompany experimental eco-engineering installations around Ireland (Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford and Malahide Marine) and Wales (New Quay, Prestatyn, and Milford Haven). These give an overview of eco-engineering and various designs that can be incorporated to increase the biodiversity found on artificial coastal structures.
Thank you to Malahide Marina, Wexford County Council, Ceredigion County Council, Denbighshire County Council, Wildlife Trust South Wales, and Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre for allowing us to install experiments and information boards.
The Carpet Sea Squirt (Didemnum vexillum) is an invasive marine species originally from Japan that is beginning to spread along the Irish and Welsh coasts. Ecostructure investigated Carpet Sea Squirt populations in the Irish Sea, exploring whether certain populations have genetic adaptations that allow them to spread more rapidly. To learn more about the Carpet Sea Squirt, view or download the following fact sheet, which comes with a crossword to test your knowledge!
- Suitable for upper secondary and college-level students
- Suitable for workshops
All Ecostructure’s videos can be viewed on our YouTube channel. View some of the highlights below.
Enhancing the Biodiversity of Marine Artificial Structures
Enhancing the biodiversity of marine artificial structures is of increasing interest, with both policy push and industry desire to incorporate biodiversity-friendly infrastructure into marine and coastal developments. Following methods developed by the Conservation Evidence project, we summarised the documented evidence for the effectiveness of conservation actions that can be taken to enhance the biodiversity of marine artificial structures. View the animated explainer video below to learn more!
Get to know Ecostructure researchers and the work they conducted in these short videos covering various aspects of the project, from sampling non-native species to lobster habitat unit design. View the full playlist with all ten videos here.
Ecostructure Final Conference
Watch all the presentations from our Final Conference in June 2022, which summarise our research activities and findings from the project in detail. View the full playlist here.
Our project newsletters served as attractive, easy-to-read reports on Ecostructure’s research highlights every year. Below, find our newsletters from 2017 – 2021 in English and Welsh. Designed by Amy Dozier.
2017 English Welsh