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Research Says 3D Printed Concrete Bricks Can Promote Biodiversity Near Seawalls

Nov 06, 2020

According to New Atlas reports, when the natural ocean coastline is replaced by artificial seawalls, many precious intertidal habitats will be lost. However, a new study shows that by covering these walls with specially designed tiles, an alternative habitat can be created. Small creatures living in the intertidal zone often like some horns, where they can gain a safe foothold, avoid predators, and avoid the sun when the tide is low. Unfortunately, seawalls are usually flat, barren, vertical concrete areas without any such features.

An international research team recently tried to add some small corners and small gaps to these seawalls in the form of 3D printed gapped concrete tiles. In one year, these concrete bricks were placed on seawalls in 14 locations around the world, including Hong Kong, Sydney, San Francisco and London.

When subsequently compared with completely flat tiles deployed in the same area, the researchers found that the species in the cracked concrete tiles increased by 19% to 51%, and the animals increased by 59% to 416%. Not surprisingly, most creatures-such as barnacles, snails and molluscs-prefer to inhabit the bottom of the crevices, because that is their most hidden place.


Before attaching the concrete bricks to the seawall, use oysters to attract other organisms, and the effect of the concrete bricks is improved. During the test, not only did the oysters themselves continue to thrive, but they also served as food for predators, and the wrinkled surface of their shells provided more habitat for small creatures.

This research is part of a larger World Ports project led by Australia and is described in a paper recently published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.