Sea defences along our coast are crucial for communities to combat sea level rise, but there is growing evidence that they also contribute to the decline of biodiversity.

However, eco-engineering solutions can mitigate diminishing biodiversity and transform infrastructure into valuable habitat. Swansea University is working with industry specialists on a range of interventions to maximise opportunities for flora and fauna to colonise sea defences, without compromising their primary function - to defend our coastal communities.

With support from the Greatest Need Fund, this project will go a step further. Researchers from Biosciences Department will work in collaboration with participants from outside the university to develop sea defences which not only enhance biodiversity, but also aesthetics, cultural heritage and health and safety.

A ‘community design’ for Mumbles

The Mumbles Seawall in Swansea is undergoing restoration, presenting an opportunity for the new seawall which will encourage biodiversity and become a valuable feature for the community.

A series of workshops will help to develop bespoke designs that integrate the ideas and needs of a diverse group of stakeholders, such as community groups (Gower Society, Royal Institution of South Wales), educators, local residents and businesses, and Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

The aim of this ‘community design’ is to acknowledge that ecology is just one factor in the creative process, and that aspects such as aesthetics, cultural heritage and health and safety are crucial considerations in this public space.

Commercial companies Reckli and CubeX, specialists in the creation of bespoke formliners (moulds) and Ultra-High-Performance- Concrete (UHPC) manufacturing, will advise on manufacturing requirements. The objective is to create two panel designs, manufacture the formliners and produce 36 panels for testing, which will be fixed to the Mumbles Seawall.

Over one year the panels will be monitored by marine scientists, as well as citizens in a participatory science project. Scientists will quantify the biodiversity and compare the effectiveness of the ‘community design’ with commercial patterns.

The citizen science project will enable participants from across the community to learn about coastal biodiversity, the species living in the intertidal area and how to record them. They will also be introduced to local effects of climate change and the concept of eco-engineering, developing a deeper connection with their local environment.

The project is an opportunity for academics to better understand attitudes to scientific research, coastal defences and the natural environment. It will also lead to a database containing information about the biodiversity of Swansea Bay, which will be of interest not only to academics, but also for environmental managers such as NRW or Swansea Council.

If you’re interested in supporting this project or other similar projects, please contact us here