Have you heard anyone refer to ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ yet? If you haven’t it’s probably just a matter of time before you do! ‘Ecosystem Services’ is perhaps a more common term but what does it actually mean?
Our ecologist and co-founder Ian Boyd explains here what they mean in simple terms…..
After the Prince of Wales publicly said this week that he is “very concerned” about the lack of creativity and arts being taught in schools, and that in his opinion organisations and government must collaborate in order to address the problem, our co-founder Nigel George speaks out about why he agrees and explains how Artecology is actively working on the problem.
It’s National Marine Week this week and so perfect timing for the start of our latest Discovery Bay research project which got under way today. Our two latest work experience students, Christ the King A-level pupils, Lizzie and Alanah met us out on Horse Ledge, Shanklin at low tide early this morning starting with Rockpool ID practice, looking for, and discovering patches, of the rare seaweed Peacock’s tail, a key conservation target. We also spotted a Hairy crab, another rare find so great to see it at home at Horse Ledge. We walked on to Hope Beach, looking at the distribution of sandstone reef features before taking a quick look at the ongoing PhD research with Glasgow University on Hope Beach groyne where together we’re experimenting with man-made textures and their effects on marine colonisation.
Alanah and Lizzie’s task this summer is to help Artecology and Arc map the reef features in each of the 54 individual bays along the defended coast of the Bay, identifying any areas of Peacock’s tail as they go.
This latest student project illustrates again how our homebase, Sandown Bay provides tremendous opportunities for higher education research into marine ecology, coastal management and big global issues, while on a local level, it helps Island students find topics of interest and inspiration close to home. Both Lizzie and Alanah are looking at their university choices as we speak and it’s brilliant that the natural world and Sandown Bay can shape, spark and inform their decisions.
Latest news from Wightlink:
'Pioneering artificial rockpools (or Vertipools) attached to the side of Wightlink’s harbour in Fishbourne last year are already attracting a fascinating range of Solent marine life.
A survey in June 2018 found 29 species including crabs, barnacles and sea squirts living inside the triangular-shaped structures. They are covered by the sea at high water and can be seen when the tide falls.
Isle of Wight consultancy Artecology designed and installed six of the structures in 2017 as part of Wightlink’s £45million investment in a new ship for the Portsmouth route and improved port facilities.
Wightlink’s newly appointed Environmental Officer Nicola Craig joined Bournemouth University marine biologist Dr Alice Hall and Ian Boyd and Claire Hector from Artecology on the short voyage on a launch from the neighbouring Royal Victoria Yacht Club to the harbour wall to view the vertipools at close range
“As a marine biologist myself, I was amazed at the biodiversity in our vertipools and I’m proud to learn that Wightlink has been the first company to install them,” says Nicola. “I’m sure most of our staff and customers have no idea of the richness of marine life beneath the waves.”
Ecologist Ian Boyd said: “ Vertipools are a true Island innovation and it’s marvellous to see them being deployed with such effect right here at home. Artecology is all about creating a built environment more favourable for wildlife and Wightlink is helping to do just that.”
Dr Alice Hall will be monitoring the vertipools twice a year to keep track of the different species that inhabit them “The Vertipools at Fishbourne have colonised very well and are supporting a wide range of species which would otherwise be absent from the concrete structure. They are also providing a refuge for animals such as crabs and sea spiders when the tides falls. I look forward to monitoring them further to see how they change and develop over time”.
Wightlink Chief Executive Keith Greenfield spoke about the company’s green initiatives at the Isle of Wight’s inaugural Environmental Conference at Cowes. “We operate ferries in some of the most beautiful waters of the country and do our best to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We are delighted to provide a location for the vertipools and look forward to seeing how the project develops.”'
Thanks to Karen Woods at Wightlink for this report on our first commercial application of the pools and part of a partnership project with Arc Consulting, Environment Agency, ABPMer and Wightlink.
According to the organisers of the 5th IMCC, those active in conservation of the world’s oceans must go beyond science and use policy and management to catalyze effective and positive change. The Society for Conservation Biology's ‘International Marine Conservation Congress’ (IMCC) in Borneo this week will bring together conservation professionals and students from across the planet to help develop new and powerful tools to further marine conservation science and policy. This year Artecology will be represented by Dr Alice Hall from Bournemouth University whose PhD included a comprehensive study of our Vertipool system. Alice’s talk at the IMCC5 in Borneo will suggest that novel green infrastructure engineering techniques can mitigate for habitat loss caused be sea level rise by creating manmade habitable intertidal structures.
Find out more about IMCC5 here https://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/
Creating opportunities for people to experience wildlife encounter is part and parcel of what we do at Artecology. encouraging wildlife to be obvious, easy to notice, exciting to find and simple to understand is important when reconnecting humans with a natural world from which we have become horribly detached.
So whilst the serious business of research and development into the creation of truly bioreceptive towns and cities continues from our Isle of Wight HQ, we've discovered that the science behind reconnecting people with the natural world works best if it includes a big dollop of fun!
In response we have developed NaturePlay as a way of creating a play driven interactive experience which connects people to local wildlife and local environment. Our latest project, on the cliff tops of Exmouth, is a great example of this, a fun family activity which themed on local prehistoric wildlife of the amazing local Jurassic Coast.
Sandy Bay Holiday Park, owned by Haven Holidays, is the latest recipient of one of our NaturePlay installations. When the holiday park opens in March you will be able excavate a huge replica dinosaur fossil, giant ammonites and dinosaur footprints and claws, all hand made on site by our in-house artists.
It's hoped that this safe, fun and educational activity will inspire families to think more about wildlife and natural history and even nurture a life long fascination with earth sciences.
We're always on the lookout for great ideas that we might incorporate into the Artecology method - bioreceptive built environments with a strong design aesthetic. And so it was with much excitement that we opened a box of extraordinary things from artist Felicity Jowitt, a 3rd year student at Bath Spa University. Inside, carefully wrapped, were the most exquisite panels of handmade ceramic knitting - textile dipped in stoneware and then glazed! The result is a highly complex, perforated surface with enormous potential for colonisation as part of a cladding system or ornamental tile array. The pH and surface chemistry of these ceramics are quite different to the concrete and cement designs that make up the bulk of our manufacture and so will lead to new and interesting patterns of, for example, bryophyte and lichen encrustation, something we are testing at the moment.
Watch this space for more beautiful creations from Felicity and the results of our field experiments !
The Gatekeepers project presented us with a chance to try something completely new, something never tried before anywhere in the world as far as we know! We set out to create a sculptural graffiti wall which uses Artecology principles to attract wildlife and provide a completely novel Wildlife experience for the general public who use a little alley way in the city of Newcastle called Jacobin's Chare. The project started with a community workshop consisting of local young people and the team from Streetwise, a young people's charity, whose task it was to design the Gatekeepers graffiti artwork. Once we had a design ready to go, the sculptural work on the wall started on the wall itself. Using a special bioreceptive concrete render, the Gatekeepers Design was sculpted on to the wall by the Artecology team using a technique know as ‘Bas Relief’, this simply means ‘low relief’. By working in this was the team were able to create plant pockets, ledges for mosses and lichens to grow and even holes for solitary bees to nest in. In four days the work was completed and the Artecology team headed back to the Isle of Wight from whence they came, leaving behind the world’s first BioGraffiti wall.
Nigel George said “This was an extraordinary project, a wonderful collaboration between a diverse array of individuals and organisations that has been able to create something very special indeed. We have left Streetwise and its young people with the task of monitoring the BioGraffiti wall and to report back to us with any information about how the wall is populating with flora and fauna. We call this community reporting process citizen science. The data they gather will help really us with our research and development work into bioreceptive urban environments going forward”.
Project partners were - EcoNorth, The Crown Estate, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trust, The Gate Entertainment Complex & Streetwise.
Watch and listen to our Co-Founder Ian Boyd speaking about the nature of cities and how our research is making city wildlife ecosystems a reality. Film by The Royal Society of Biology at New Scientist Live 2017.
We've come a long way since our first artificial rockpool was deployed in the intertidal zone of the Solent back in 2013. We call them Vertipools and today we have three different designs available for installation on concrete sea defences and harbour walls.
In the studio at the moment we have a new Vertipool design on the drawing board which we're expecting to field test early next year. This latest Vertipool unit is being developed with the added objective of prolonging the life of the wooden groyne structures to which it will attach.
This summer saw an addition to our growing list of artificial seashore habitats with the installation of our first ever vertical intertidal mud vessel. The 'Mud Bin' (working title) was installed in the Medina Estuary as part of ferry company Wightlink's recent port alteration works. We'll be following the Mud Bin's progress over the coming months and will report progress as soon as we have news.
We now have concrete intertidal Vertipools successfully deployed in Bournemouth, Sandown Bay, Yarmouth IW and Crammond Edinburgh. All of the artificial pools are colonising well and providing high rise habitat for intertidal sea life.
Our objective of buying time for seashore ecosystems with the onset of sea level rise looming seems to be paying off.
One of Artecology’s founding ideas is called ‘Punctuated Intervention’, based on an important principle in landscape conservation that we can summarise as the ‘not everything is everywhere’ rule! What this means is that wildlife isn’t evenly distributed in the world around us. The density of biological activity is almost always patchy; through a wood, or in a pond, or across a field, in a park or in a garden. A butterfly will spend lots of time making very short journeys around a particularly good feeding or egg-laying spot and then skip the intervening space as it flies 100m to the next. A bat might travel 10km to feed at its favourite pond but bypass many small woods and meadows on the way. A population of ground beetles might flourish in the scuffed bare ground at one end of a school playing field but be completely absent from the other.
The usefulness of the habitats around us varies, and consequently landscapes are necessarily composed of patches of differing ecological value. Some will provide just one of many options for wildlife and are easily replaced if damaged or disturbed (for example a general getting from A to B), others may be a vital and singular resource (for example the only pond in the neighbourhood). Looking at places in this way helps us to concentrate our efforts on the best and most sustainable results. If we can manage small, and sometimes very small, patches of environment to provide high density wildlife activity then we can help to build up ecosystem resilience by increasing the number of ‘hotspots’ available to species and their local populations. If we space these enriched patches to suit the dispersal abilities of particular target species, or an assemblage of invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and songbirds, then, in the jargon of the moment, we can deliver ‘net gain’. This is Punctuated Intervention. The great thing about PI is that organizations can deliver real improvements for wildlife even within the limited funding now available for environmental work, and set these within an existing maintenance regime without complicating contracts and annoying contractors! Even better, it is possible to begin to apply those very maintenance routines to landscape punctuation, stretching existing budgets for better results.
Actually, there’s a little more to it, and that’s the Artecology take on Rewilding, but more on this next time……
At Artecology we're used to tackling very big 'real world' problems. Some of our current projects (particularly coastal ones) are expanding in size and scope, so as we prepare to upscale our operations we are aslo mindful of the importance of thinking and working small!
Artecology is very often about designing and creating little changes to the urban environment, small interventions that have a big positive effect on the local ecology of the space in which they are deployed.
Our miniature earth-cast freshwater pools are a great illustration of how small interventions can yield big results. Made from Natural Argillaceous Concrete the pool is designed with a large structural surface area. This 'Tardis Effect' has been achieved through clever use of textured interior surface detail. In just 10 litres of water an astonishingly diverse array of aquatic and semi-aquatic flora and fauna has colonised the pool photographed in less than 18 months. The water perfect for wildlife, it's clear and perfectly balanced and is also a hot spot for inquisitive children for whom the pool poses absolutely no threat or danger but does provide a wonderful close up aquatic wildlife encounter.
The Artecology team were up in Edinburgh recently as part of a coastal habitat collaboration with a fantastic set of partners including Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Glasgow Uni and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The team's trip involved installing artificial rockpools and bio-tiles, presenting on Artecology at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and probably best of all, a series of schools engagement sessions including the genius pupils from Forthview Primary School.
BBC Newsround have just featured one of the school sessions in this magic film, interviewing the kids as they learnt how to create rock pools on the sea defences near Cramond. Here's their take on climate change, coastal adaptation and biodiversity. Great interview also with Glasgow Uni's Mairi MacArthur who works with us on the bio-tiles project.
#coastal #habitatcreation #biodiversity
#EdinShoreline NERC: Natural Environment Research Council, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Wildlife Trust University of Glasgow, Edinburgh Living LandscapeLandscapes CBBC @bbcnewsround #IsleofWight #innovation! #TheBay
Yesterday was the IW Biological Recorders' Conference at Arreton, hosted by the excellent IW Natural History Society http://iwnhas.org/. It's the annual gathering of naturalists, conservation organizations, ecology professionals and amazing volunteers, with great displays, fascinating talks and plentiful cake! It really is a fantastic and inspiring event - so many dedicated people sharing ideas, information and a boundless enthusiasm for wildlife. This year our friends and colleagues from Bournemouth University, Dr. Roger Herbert and Alice Hall, presented results from their research on 'Recording and enhancing marine life on artificial structures'. Alice talked about the Bouldnor and Boscombe Vertipools, and the Yaverland tyre pools, showing data on the ecological enhancement value of Artecology as a retrofit to existing marine infrastructure. It was a fascinating lecture and provoked much interest and comment from the audience, continuing right up to the close and carrying on into the car park afterwards! There is so much exciting work ahead, so much to learn and apply and so many possibilities to explore. Artecology is a great place to be just now!
Eels are amazing! The European eel breeds at sea, but migrates into our rivers to grow before returning to the sea to spawn some 6 to 20 years later. The first three years of the European eel’s life are spent drifting in the ocean as a larva. It is thought that all European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, in the western Atlantic. At some point in their young lives the eels decide to head across the Atlantic Ocean for our rivers and streams and therein lies a problem! Man made weirs and culverts in our rivers and streams present a real barrier to the eels and sometimes they need a helping hand so they can make their way through the obstacles and onward to their destination up stream. 'Eel passes' are an established method that can help the eels by giving them a surface they can push through and grip on to in order to negotiate the weirs and culverts. Our 'Love Eels' retro fit tiles are about to be tested for the first time. The eye catching 3D 'Heart and Dart' ornamentation is designed to catch the attention of humans as well as allowing eels to get a grip when they need to most. Our new tiles will draw attention to these extraordinary animals and provide the possibility of an astonishing wildlife encounter that few people have ever seen for real.