The city does not end at the shore, it is said. While only 15% of the Earth’s land surface is in coastal zones, 60% of human population lives and interacts with seas and oceans. Infrastructure put in place to support coastal urban areas modifies shorelines and facilitates the introduction of invasive species, causing marine habitat and biodiversity loss throughout the world’s shores.
To bridge the need for urban marine development and sustainability, SeArc has created a series of modular infrastructure building blocks made from ECOncrete, an ecologically active concrete product that can serve as a host to sea organisms without compromising infrastructure needs.
In the fields of sustainable development and conservation, research is usually done on terrestrial deforestation and land use. Marine biologists Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Ido Sella, of Israel-based SeArc Ecological Marine Consulting, have built their conservation work around the preservation of often ignored urban marine habitats.
Marine infrastructures create severe stress on natural ecosystems, namely through shoreline degradation and erosion near coastal population centers. The shifting and blocking of land masses at the shoreline reduces accessibility and habitats for marine animals, plants, and humans alike. The resulting habitat loss and reduced biodiversity is exacerbated by the proliferation of invasive species that are more resilient to concrete structures such as piers, jetties, pile foundations, and sea walls.
Several strategies can help mitigate the environmental consequences of infrastructure projects; habitat rehabilitation, ecological engineering and habitat creation, and sustainable management and monitoring of marine structures can be combined into a myriad of site-specific projects and programs that reintroduce native species, modify habitats to simulate native conditions, or help eradicate or control invasives.
The next step in the sustainable development of ports and other coastal infrastructure is centered on literally combining environmentally active infrastructure.