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January 24, 2009

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Without looking into this matter more than you wrote - I wouldn't be surprised if the current beach starts being eroded and sedimentation increases in other areas ultimately ruining the nice beach environment.

I agree! I (and plenty of us) wouldn't be surprised either. But we continue to pursue these lunatic schemes. Do you know Cornelia Dean's excellent book "Against the tide - the battle for America's beaches"? This was written in 1999, but somehow or another, we still don't seem to have learned anything (also, see my "Knuts ancient and modern" post - same theme of meddling with natural processes).

It all depends if they did their homework and studied the environment ... that doesn't mean it will necessarily work, but hopefully they reduced uncertainty as well as they could and have a few predictions of what could happen and why based on their research. In short, it's important to do research!!

You're absolutely right, Brian - it all depends. My problem is that, in a hunt around the web, I've not found any references to the research, and you would think that, if the science had been done, it would be cited. The "feasibility study" was conducted by the same company that was awarded the construction contract, and much of the literature that shows up on artificial reef studies originates from the principals of that company. The main references to influences on sediment movement are the potential benefits for "coastal protection" - for example from the official Bournemouth local government "information pack":

"What environmental impact will the reef have?
The environmental implications are at worst, neutral. It’s likely that marine life will thrive on the reef and there will be no damaging effects to the beach. Although our reason for building the reef is for regeneration and leisure, expert opinion says that it may also help with coastal defences."

I just can't help coming back to the dramatic videos on Rob Holman's website (real research) which reveal how extraordinarily complex nearshore sand body movements are - the whole system is inherently unpredictable. A Bournemouth local councillor who is sceptical about the scheme commented that the environmental impact of the reef cannot be predicted accurately .... "The sea is a mysterious thing. We don't know how it will affect the coast." Presumably this particular councillor was not one of the three who spent a vital eighteen days in New Zealand gathering crucial facts on artificial reefs!

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