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Stopping The Sea From Drowning Us, With Artificial Ecosystems

Could hollow metal tubes made to stimulate mangrove forests help stem the tide of rising waters and save river delta communities?

Stopping The Sea From Drowning Us, With Artificial Ecosystems
[Image: Hunting for worms via Wikipedia]

Low-lying river deltas are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise. Places like the Niger River Delta, in Nigeria, could be overrun with flooding without new techniques to break the flow of incoming water.

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This design from a Hungarian group called Szövetség’39 is one idea. It aims to build artificial dykes to encourage the growth of mangrove trees, which have long existed in delta areas. The dyke is meant to trap sediment, building a barrier to break water surges.

Check out the video below for more. The concept recently picked up a major award from a foundation in France that promotes innovative underwater structures.

Called CALTROPe, the dyke is made of hollow metal tubes twisted into a heavy, two-footed structure that’s anchored to the bed. The mangrove trees grow within the tubes, eventually taking root. As well as slowing water, the vegetation also provides nutrients and encourages seafood to populate.

“They are installed [so] the ensemble can follow natural shore evolutions and help the endangered areas adapt to new conditions by capturing sediment and forming a dam,” says Szövetség’39’s press release.

Rebuilding mangrove forests on river deltas have been championed by groups like the World Wildlife Fund and the U.N. Environment Program. And, metal reefs to encourage natural sediment build-up are a popular strategy among resiliency designers, as we saw recently with this proposed project in New York Harbor. It’s not the solution, of course. But it might be one of them, and it has the advantage of being what’s already there.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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