We first wrote about the Bournemouth reef, Europe’s first artificial reef, this past summer. Our focus–and the focus of other media sources–was on the structure’s potential to turn the coast of Bournemouth, U.K. into a surfer’s paradise by doubling the size of waves coming onto shore. But the local environment will benefit from the $5-million, two-and-a-half-acre reef just as much as the surfing industry.
According to Nick Behunin, the managing director of multi-purpose reef company ASR Ltd., the Bournemouth reef can decrease beach erosion and create new marine ecosystems. “This is mimicking the way nature has protected coastlines for thousands of years,” he explained. “If you put a submerged reef offshore, it dissipates the wind energy that causes coastal erosion, and does a better job of protecting a beach than rocks or concrete seawalls.” And that kind of protection is worth untold amounts of cash for seaside communities, which spend millions each year pumping sand onto eroding beaches.
Of course, the reef, scheduled to be officially unveiled later this week, will be a boon to the local tourism industry as well, with shops, restaurants and beach huts all opening on the coast in anticipation. And U.K surfers will be clamoring for the opportunity to ride Bournemouth’s giant waves.
The Bournemouth coast won’t be the only place to benefit from ASR’s reef expertise. The company is working on a reef project in India. And unlike with the tourism-driven Bournemouth project, this reef will have the primary objective of protecting the coast.