Natural reefs are one of the most varied ecosystems on the Earth, and they are quickly disappearing due to a combination of factors such as overfishing, pollution and pathogenic diseases. However, stricter government regulations could take years to implement. The deployment of artificial reefs may be the short term answer.
Marine scientists in the Faculty of Science & Technology have been awarded a multidisciplinary four year (2017-21) EU Interreg project to design artificial reefs optimised for Atlantic waters.
The 3DPARE project is working to deploy and monitor artificial reef blocks in the Atlantic ocean which have been designed and fabricated using innovative 3D printing technology and sustainable, low-impact bio-receptive materials.
Reef blocks have the potential to mitigate for loss of natural reef habitats and enhance food production, coastal infrastructure and recreational amenity. 3D printing technology offers considerable scope to increase the complexity of textures and voids to create block structures that may be more effective than concrete blocks which are currently being submerged.
The project is led by the University of Cantabria Department of Civil Engineering (Santander, Spain) who specialise in 3D Printing. The other main partners include Bournemouth University (Faculty of Science & Technology), CIIMAR (Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto, Portugal), IPMA (Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere), ESITC Caen Institute for Civil Engineering and Construction (Caen, France).
BU expertise includes the monitoring of ecosystems on natural and artificial reefs that will provide data for mapping, design of varying materials, and the deployment of large reef blocks across the transnational partnership.
During the summer of 2018, the research team studied natural and artificial habitats within Poole Bay, UK. Scuba diving surveys and baited remote underwater video surveys were conducted to capture ecological data.
Baited remote underwater video (BRUV) survey in Poole Bay, UK. Conger Eel (Conger conger), Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and Pouting (Trisopterus luscus)
BU will also develop protocols to monitor submerged reef blocks and the collection and identification of animal and plant life. This involves regular surveys including the use of SCUBA dives and drop-down cameras. Data will then be continually analysed and presented through dissemination events and publications.