Ecosystem-Based Flood Defense
An initial step towards Nature Inspired Coastal Zone Management
Coastal protection measures are increasingly required as coastal zones are under duress of climate change (sea level rise, intensification of storms, increasing beach erosion, etc.) and under enhanced anthropogenic pressure (demographic evolution, loss of habitats, economic expansion, etc.). The combination threatens the ecosystem and significantly reduces the resilience of the coast.
Traditional coastal engineering techniques such as sea walls and dykes, although widely perceived as the ultimate solutions to withstand storms and floods, are challenged in many locations of the world and may become unsustainable (e.g. their continuous maintenance, as well as their heightening and widening to keep up with the increasing flood risk) and unwanted ecological side-effects.
Hence, there is a growing trend to look for alternatives, for instance by including nature-inspired designs (NID) in coastal zone management as a way to reduce adverse impacts by creating healthy ecosystems and engaging nature and natural processes, providing a more sustainable, effective and cost efficient solution that is ecologically sound. In addition, additional benefits or ecosystem services (compared with conventional engineering approaches) include the improvement of water quality, small-scale sequestration of carbon, creation of fish nurseries, stimulation of biodiversity, benthic habitat enhancing and overarching nature conservation.
Coastbusters Biogenic reefs screens the viability of three different naturally occurring sediment-stabilizing reef concepts off the Belgian coast. Three key bio-engineering species groups are seagrass/seaweed, blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and sand mason worm (Lanice conchilega) Three common goals were identified:
- The organisms survive the dynamic conditions of the foreshore and maintain their ecological functions (Environmental status).
- The reef, built as a specific biogenic structure, is stable and creates ecological added value within the local coastal ecosystem (Ecosystem Services Provider).
- The natural reef develops in such a way that local sedimentation and natural stabilisation of the foreshore occurs (Coastal Protection).
The acquired insights will lead to a competitive valorisation of sustainable NID business opportunities for the industrial partners and will generate exceptional knowledge acquisition for the research institutes putting the Flemish marine knowledge ecosystem at the forefront in this innovation field.
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