From Pilots to Projects: The Panama Pilot as Showcase for Upscaling Artificial Reef Technology
WODCON XXIII - Dredging is changing - The Practice. The Science. The Business.
P. Peters, D. Rijks, B. Hendriksen
"Within the dredging and marine infrastructure sector, significant efforts are being made to continuously look for innovative ways to establish the right conditions to enhance biodiversity whilst at the same time ensuring effective coastal defence and riverbank protection. The implementation of large-scale, modular artificial reefs is one of the innovations that can contribute to enabling such effective solutions that can be applied in ports, coastal protection works, land reclamations and enhancement of natural reserves. Through their unique designs, rapid construction methods, and a high robustness, modular artificial reefs are specifically designed to create great structural complexity with relatively simple units (Cardenas-Rojas et al., 2021). In support of this effort, Boskalis has launched its Artificial Reefs Program (ARP). As part of this Program and its collaborative network, a pilot project has been initiated in Portobelo, Panama whereby various types of (modular) artificial reefs have been placed underwater at the same location to monitor, compare and understand the functionality of each reef type over time under similar conditions (Figure 1). The pilot provides an important scientific basis for the Program which aims to combine extensive knowledge on artificial reefs with Nature Based Solutions (NBS). The monitoring results are used to define effective (proven) solutions for environmental enrichment in projects which in turn can act as enabler for marine projects in sensitive areas. The value of artificial reefs Artificial reefs are broadly defined as human made submerged structures placed on substratum to mimic characteristics of a natural reef. They have proven to be an optimal and effective solution in stabilizing coastlines around the world (Cardenas-Rojas et al., 2021). Artificial reefs imitate the protection service provided by natural reefs accomplishing the functions of dissipating wave energy and protecting beach morphology, but they also function as an important ecological solution. By instantly creating complex habitat, artificial reefs support the ecosystem services that has been lost due to decades of habitat degradation along tropical and temperate coastal environments. Depending on the shape and size of the units, they significantly decrease wave energy and stimulate healthy coasts, create complex habitat which provides crucial shelter and recruitment possibilities (Figure 2), and they can be designed to enhance fish recruitment rates, allowing fish production to be augmented to levels otherwise not attainable (Layman and Allgeier, 2020; Layman et al., 2016). The Panama pilot To create a solid, scientific basis for the decision process around the selection of which reef is most effective in the specific project environment, a pilot project is key. It enables us to understand the performance and limitations of current designs and provides feedback for further developments in view of larger scale applications. Once there is an understanding of the functioning of the various reefs, fit-for-purpose solutions (e.g. aimed at creating ecological habitats) can be defined that have a clear business case for upscaling. The Panama pilot answers to a wider need for scientific evaluation of various reef types and techniques with regards to their added values in biodiversity and biomass over time and in the same environment. The pilot is one of only few in the world where a wide range of different artificial reef types based on various design philosophies are tested simultaneously; from prefabricated concrete modular and single mould shapes to Mineral Accretion Technology (MAT) based steel structures. This is in contrast"
Keywords: artificial reefs, habitat restoration, climate adaptation, coastal protection, corals