Swansea University – enhancing our marine and coast environment
Swansea folk are often proud to say they are surrounded by wonderful coastline. There is considerable support locally for the proposed Tidal Lagoon yet a question remains how will the proposed Swansea Tidal Lagoon affect our local environment? Now, new research is being launched by Swansea University in collaboration with Tidal Lagoon Power. The research will investigate opportunities for enhancing the marine and coastal environments of Swansea Bay through design alterations of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and even the use of drones.
Most people are excited by the prospect of new jobs and renewable energy and rightfully so. The effect on our local environment both during the construction phase (if the project finally gets the go ahead) and in the longer term, is more difficult to understand. It’s a question that has certainly been on some Swansea citizen’s lips recently.
Did you know there are over 100 types of seaweed on the Gower peninsula alone? There have been at least this many recorded by Swansea University coastal ecology laboratory.
The new body of research is organised through a project called SEACAMS2, a three-year project, which is managed through Swansea University and Bangor University and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund to support industry-academia collaborations in the marine economy and marine renewable energy.
SEACAMS2 is supporting the growth of marine and coastal businesses in the marine renewable energy and affiliated sectors via state-of-the-art collaborative research activities with industry; the six projects with Tidal Lagoon Power are examples of how the industry can benefit from Swansea University’s research excellence.”
We are lucky enough here in Swansea to be surrounded by some of the richest and most varied marine habitats in Europe. The range of life supported is immense locally from large areas of habitat frequented by seals and dolphins, to rocky nooks providing homes for octopus, anemones, crabs and all manner of shellfish such as mussels and of course our Swansea oysters.
The new Swansea Bay tidal lagoon structure may provide a great opportunity for enhancing our coastline. SEACAMS2 research led by Dr. John Griffin with Tidal Lagoon Power will be investigating how to optimise the design of the tidal lagoon walls to enhance native biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. At the same time, research is underway to increase understanding of how sand dunes protect our coastlines and recover after storms.
Marine renewable energy plants such as wind farms and the planned Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay are becoming common place and may cause modifications to marine habitats. The building of artificial reef structures has the potential to mitigate (or make good) the effects on the natural environment and enrich biodiversity by varying the substrate (or sea bottom). Tidal Lagoon Power has an ambitious Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) that aspires to restore, protect and create coastal and marine habitats.
Building on earlier research led by Dr. Ruth Callaway of the previous SEACAMS project in collaboration with the eco-engineering company Salix, tests for the effect of reef mattresses in sublittoral areas will be carried out with Tidal Lagoon Power in Swansea Bay. The results will not only inform TLP about the effectiveness of reef-mattresses for Swansea Bay but also for other planned lagoons. Research is also underway to increase understanding of the potential to restore seagrass meadows led by Dr. Richard Unsworth. Such meadows can provide incredible habitat for a variety of species such as sea horses.
A major concern about the potential environmental impact for all coastal and marine constructions locally will be the effect on local beach landscapes. To understand any change to the shape of local beaches detailed measurements of the beach topography need to be taken. According to Swansea University, traditional ways of measuring this are time-consuming in areas such as ours which have such large tidal ranges.
Within SEACAMS2, College of Engineering research led by Dr. Iain Fairleyfrom the Coastal Engineering Group is helping to develop novel survey strategies for the beaches around Swansea Bay. Use of terrestrial laser scanners and survey drones will enable cost-effective monitoring in high resolution. By obtaining this level of detail the hope is that a greater understanding of the natural variability of beaches in the region will be obtained and therefore a better understanding of the lagoon’s potential impact. Once this research is carried out the methodology can be used to survey other future lagoon sites and so will help inform future design and reduce risk.
To further provide an improved understanding of sediment movements and changes in seabed morphology in Swansea Bay, Dr Jose Horrillo-Caraballo is developing an improved wave and tidal model for the Swansea Bay Bristol Channel region.
A full presentation of the SEACAMS2 project was recently made at the Marine Energy Wales annual conference at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea on 30 March.
Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual-campus iniversity. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The University’s 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University’s 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Swansea is ranked the top university in Wales and is currently The Times and The Sunday Times ‘Welsh University of the Year’. It is also ranked within the top 350 best universities in the world in the Times Higher Education World University rankings.
The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the ‘biggest leap among research-intensive institutions’ (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.
The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions.
Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit www.swansea.ac.uk
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