New research to investigate enhancing marine and coastal environments

New research from Swansea University has been launched in collaboration with Tidal Lagoon Power to investigate opportunities for enhancing the marine and coastal environments of Swansea Bay through design alterations of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

The research is organised through the project SEACAMS2 a three-year project is managed through Swansea University and Bangor University and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund to support industry-academia collaborations in the marine economy and marine renewable energy.

SEACAMS 2Professor Kam Tang of the Biosciences Department at the College of Science who is the principal investigator of SEACAMS2 at Swansea University said: “SEACAMS2 is supporting the growth of marine and coastal businesses in the marine renewable energy and affiliated sectors via state-of-the-art collaborative research activities with industry; the six projects with Tidal Lagoon Power are examples of how the industry can benefit from Swansea University’s research excellence.”

Coastlines

The rocky shores along the coast of Wales are home to some of the richest and most varied marine habitats in Europe. Swansea University coastal ecology laboratory has recorded well over 100 types of seaweed from the Gower peninsular alone. The new Swansea Bay tidal lagoon structure provides a great opportunity for enhancing our coastline and SEACAMS2 research led by Dr John Griffin with Tidal Lagoon Power will be investigating how to optimise the design of the tidal lagoon walls to enhance native biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. At the same time, research is underway to increase understanding of how sand dunes protect our coastlines and recover after storms.

Marine habitats

SEACAMS 2 shellsMarine habitats are increasingly modified by infrastructure deployed for marine renewable energy plants such as the proposed Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay. Artificial reef structures have the potential to mitigate effects on the natural environment and enrich biodiversity by diversifying the substrate. Tidal Lagoon Power has an ambitious Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) that aspires to restore, protect and create coastal and marine habitats.

Building on research led by Dr Ruth Callaway of the previous SEACAMS project in collaboration with the eco-engineering company Salix, tests for the effect of reef mattresses in sublittoral areas will be carried out with Tidal Lagoon Power in Swansea Bay. Different types of material will be trialled under various levels of exposure. The results will not only inform TLP about the effectiveness of reef-mattresses for Swansea Bay but also for other planned lagoons. Research is also underway to increase understanding of the potential to restore seagrass meadows led by Dr Richard Unsworth.

Beaches

SEACAMS 2 TileAn important potential environmental impact for all coastal and marine constructions is the change to the shape of surrounding beaches. Understanding this change requires detailed measurements of the beach topography, however the large tidal ranges associated with lagoon sites make traditional techniques time-consuming. Within SEACAMS2, College of Engineering research led by Dr Iain Fairley from the Coastal Engineering Group is helping to develop novel survey strategies for the beaches around Swansea Bay. Use of terrestrial laser scanners and survey drones will enable cost-effective monitoring in high resolution.

This level of detail will enable greater understanding of the natural variability of beaches in the region and hence the lagoon’s potential impacts. The protocols developed can be applied to surveying of future lagoon sites and the understanding gained will inform future designs and de-risking.  To further provide improved understanding of sediment movements and changes in seabed morphology in Swansea Bay, Dr Jose Horrillo-Caraballo is developing an improved wave and tidal model for the Swansea Bay Bristol Channel region.

The SEACAMS2 project will be presenting at the upcoming Marine Energy Wales annual conference at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea on 30 March.

Picture 1 ©Anouska Mendzil 
Picture 2 ©Ruth Callaway 
Picture 3 © Tom Fairchild