When natural marine coastlines are replaced by artificial seawalls, many precious intertidal habitats are lost,media New Atlas reported. However, a new study suggests that by covering these walls with specially designed tiles, an alternative habitat can be created. Small creatures living in the inter-tidal zone tend to prefer horns where they can gain a safe foothold, avoid predators, and avoid the sun at low tide. Unfortunately, seawalls are usually just flat, barren, vertical concrete areas that do not have any such characteristics.
An international team of researchers recently tried to add small corners and small crevices to these seawalls in the form of 3D-printed crevice concrete bricks. Over the past year, the concrete bricks have been placed on port seawalls in 14 locations around the world, including Hong Kong, Sydney, San Francisco and London.
When compared with completely flat tiles deployed in the same area, the researchers found that species in creviced concrete bricks increased by 19 to 51 percent, and animals increased by 59 percent to 416 percent. Not surprisingly, most creatures — such as barnacles, snails, and muffles — prefer to live at the bottom of the crevice, which is their most hidden place.
The effect of concrete bricks is improved by attracting other creatures with oysters before attaching them to the seawall. During the test, oysters themselves not only continued to thrive, but they also eaten as predators, plus the wrinkled surface of their shells provided more habitat for small organisms.
The study is part of the larger Australian-led World Ports Project and was described in a paper recently published in the journal Global Ecology and Biometrics.