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January 30, 2023 3 min read

Living Seawalls are Changing Marine Construction

As humans grow and expand presence on the land, what happens to the sea-life that’s displaced? Turns out we weren’t the only ones wondering!

A group of talented Marine Biologists, Industrial Designers, and Research Students from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science have joined together in a flagship program called Living Seawalls.

Along Reef Design Labthis determined group is making an impressive difference and naturally, we can’t wait to tell you all about it! Let’s dive into this sea-changing invention...

The Inspiration

First up, if you’re unsure exactly what a ‘sea wall’ is don’t worry we are here to unpack it. A seawall is a structure commonly made of concrete, built parallel to the shore between the beach and land or dunes, to protect the area against wave action and prevent coastal erosion, typically during storms.

However, did you know that seawalls, pilings, pontoons, and marinas impact around 3.4 million km2 of sea space? In fact, in America, more than 50% of natural shorelines have been replaced by artificial structures. 

As you can imagine, the construction and simple presence of these structures are anything but helpful to the survival of marine life in that area. 

Of course, most of these structures have been built for important causes such as protecting the shoreline, energy generation, and communication facilitation. While the need for the structures is clear, the negative impact is still heartbreaking - that’s where Living Seawalls comes in!

Onto the good news!

What Are Living Seawalls?

The folks behind Living Seawalls have developed a solution to this problem that is driven by research and informed by nature. 

Instead of trying to stop industrial development from happening, Seawalls help marine construction become a part of the solution by adapting the cold, straight walls and other structures with panels that mimic natural shoreline features

The panels are inspired by actual sea features such as rock pools and crevices and actual measurements from nature’s rocky shorelines are taken to create affordable, long-lasting 3D prints. 

A mould is then created that can manufacture impressive amounts of panels to not only add on to new builds but adapt existing industrial structures for a marine-friendly seawall

What Can We Expect from Living Seawalls?

How are the Living Seawalls measuring up? After close observation in the Sydney Harbour, research has revealed that after just 1-2 years the new and improved seawalls are supporting 36% more species than the plain, former walls

The panels themselves support around 85 different species of invertebrates, seaweeds, and fish, directly mimicking the natural rock reefs in the same area. What a win for biodiversity! 

Of course, the life happening on the seawalls is just the start of the amazing sea-preserving impact we are seeing. Fish are finding shelter in the crevices, and the additional life is now a thriving source of food. That means more fish, healthier sea-life, and repair damage from years of marine construction.

The panels are expected to last at least 20 years supporting the animals of the ocean and we simply can’t wait to see what other species come to call these new structures home. 

Sea-Saving Inventions!

We’re simply thrilled to get to bring good news stories like this clever invention to your inbox each week and hope you get as excited as we do about the amazing planet-friendly projects taking place around the world. 

Looking for more good news to inspire your next eco-friendly swap, habit, or project? Check out our Happy Earth News Blog and don’t forget to subscribe for uplifting and inspiring stories delivered right to your inbox! 

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