A TEAM from Bournemouth University will install 150 artificial rock pools as part of a cross-Channel project investigating ways to protect marine ecosystems.

The group, led by Dr Roger Herbert, associated professor in coastal and marine biology, is looking at how to protect species from 'coastal squeeze' which is an effect caused when rising sea levels reduce coastal marine life habitat.

As sea levels rise, rocky shore habitats are lost in areas with development like harbours and ports.

They will fix the artificial rock pools, called Vertipools, to harbour walls at three separate locations as part of the EU-funded Marine Infrastructure Effects (Marineff) project.

Dr Herbert said: “Habitat loss is a serious threat to marine life as coastal development increases and sea level rises with climate warming.

"We will assess how Vertipools work in practice, how they can be designed for new structures and retro-fitted to existing sea walls and harbours.”

These Vertipools have been designed by Isle of Wight based eco-engineering company Artecology.

The Marineff project is a cross-Channel research project between universities and partners in the south of England and northern France.

It has €4.6million of European Union funding and brings together ecologists and material scientists from French and English universities, industrial partners and other stakeholders to find ways of protecting and enhancing coastal ecosystems.

Marineff research assistant Jessica Bone said: “As coastal development increases on our coastlines, we are losing habitat for coastal species in exchange for harsh surfaces that are tough for species to colonise.

"Where sea level rise meets coastal development and squeezes intertidal habitat, we have to adapt infrastructure to enhance the available habitat.

“Vertipools retain water which provides a crucial refuge for marine species, particularly in a warming climate. The Vertipools also cast shade on the surrounding area and provide cool, damp spaces that species need to find shelter when the tide is out.

“Vertipools are important for biodiversity on coastal infrastructure and provide shelter, feeding opportunities and nursery habitat.”

The team is currently looking at suitable sites along the French and English coastlines.

The type of Vertipool Bournemouth University is investigating is made from natural low-carbon concrete and hand-finished to provide interesting, rough surfaces.

Most harbour walls and coastal infrastructure have a smooth finish without any holes or grooves for species to attach to or hide in.