Artificial coastal structures (ACSs) are primarily designed to provide services for human use, such as flood defence or shipping, and are generally poor for marine biodiversity. Consequently, there has been significant research effort to enhance these hard structures to increase biodiversity and habitat availability via eco-engineering. On seawalls and breakwaters, this has included the creation of habitats for benthic species found on natural rocky shores, including the provision of cracks, crevices and water retaining features, such as artificial rockpools. When sediment retention in these features has occurred, it has often been deemed detrimental to the overarching aim of the intervention. Yet, it is soft sediment habitat that is impacted the most through coastal construction. As ecological enhancement of a flood defence scheme, nine concrete retrofit rockpools were installed at three different tidal elevations between mean high water neap tide and mean tide level on steel sheet piling on the Arun Estuary in Littlehampton Harbour, United Kingdom, which naturally filled with mud 1 year after installation. To explore how analogous the faunal assemblages and sediment profile of rockpool mud were to two local mudflats, core samples were taken and analysed for species richness, abundance, biomass, assemblage structure, median grain size, and organic matter content. More benthic species were observed in the artificial rockpool than in the local mudflats. Although the rockpools were placed at higher tidal levels than the lower shore mudflat, their assemblage structure and species richness were more similar to the lower shore mudflat at the base of the sheet piling than the upper shore mudflat. This study demonstrates that retained sediment within eco-engineered features on hard ACSs can create habitat for benthic assemblages. Providing sediment-retentive features on ACSs has the potential to provide a novel eco-engineering option that may be appropriate for some heavily modified waterbodies on sheltered, depositional coasts.



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Frontiers in Marine Science



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School of Biological and Marine Sciences