Do Artificial Reefs have a role in the restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the NE Atlantic?

Authors: Herbert, R.J.H., Blanco Fernández, E., Boutouil, M., Guerra, M., Hall, A.E., Pinto, I.S., Stafford, R., Parham, D. and Castro Fresno, D.

Start date: 22 June 2018

In some regions, Artificial Reefs have been widely used to help restore degraded marine habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem services such as fisheries and tourism. In the North-east Atlantic they have been deployed for a variety of purposes, yet they remain uncommon.

Here we firstly examine the existing role of artificial reefs and structures that have been deployed over past decades in the North-east Atlantic. We consider whether Artificial Reefs in the region have significantly increased biodiversity indicators, such as species diversity, production and ecosystem services, or have largely displaced/attracted existing fauna and flora. We consider whether the function of new reefs in the region needs to be redefined in view of emerging challenges related to habitat loss, increased storminess and sea level rise as a result of climatic changes.

Secondly, we discuss whether innovative materials and construction technologies can introduce sufficient authentic complexity to optimise the design and development of new reefs in this region to enhance biodiversity. This will include the potential mitigation of negative impacts, such as the colonisation of invasive non-native species that can commonly establish on newly exposed surfaces and which then become stepping stones for species dispersal.

We report on new international multi-disciplinary collaborations in the NE Atlantic that seek to trial innovative 3D printed designs and structures of different materials to inform the deployment of new, larger scale, ‘Reefs’ in different coastal regions. Through an ‘Eco-structures’ network, these collaborations encourage the participation and engagement of multiple stakeholders, including scientists, engineers, policy makers and NGOs.

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