3D Printed Artificial Reefs in the Atlantic Region (3DPARE)

Authors: Hall, A., Herbert, R. and Stafford, R.

Given the multiple stressors facing the marine environment, and shallow reef systems in particular, work to protect biodiversity of the oceans is crucial. Artificial structures such as coastal infrastructure and artificial reefs are proliferating worldwide and where possible engineers should aim to construct multifunctional structures which deliver their primary objective but also provide suitable habitat for marine life. Adapting and enhancing marine infrastructure for environmental gain is an emerging topic across the globe and it has shown to have multiple benefits including asset resilience and mitigation against climate change and biodiversity loss. The EU Interreg 3DPARE project (www.3dpare.eu) aims to 3D print concrete artificial reef blocks to maximise marine biodiversity and promote blue/green infrastructure, however little is known of the key features needed to maximise the benefits of artificial reefs. We conducted surveys of natural reefs and artificial structures (breakwaters, artificial reefs, and pipelines) in Poole Bay using SCUBA, photogrammetry and Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) surveys. The aim of the surveys was to determine key characteristics within artificial and natural structures that promote biodiversity and determine if these features could be enhanced or incorporated into the 3D printed units.

3D printing technology allows for more complex AR units to be produced as the design is not limited by a traditional concrete mould. The 3D printed AR units will include various habitats including holes, tunnels and overhangs of varying size and depth. The 3D printed AR units will be deployed in the UK, France, Spain and Portugal adjacent to existing coastal infrastructure. Monitoring will focus on the colonisation of specific AR unit features and how they attract marine life, and help maximise native flora and fauna assemblages.

These 3D printed AR units will be designed for use within coastal infrastructure such as rock armour and breakwaters, this will enable “grey” infrastructure to support marine life and become “blue/green” infrastructure. The materials used in the 3D printing will be developed from natural and renewable raw materials and will aim to encourage the colonisation of marine life. To ensure they have a suitable design life, tests will be conducted on the durability and mechanical strength of the concrete. The solutions proposed will be ecological, sustainable and tailored for enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem services in the marine environment.

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