Cornwall’s first ‘living’ wall installed in Falmouth Harbour

Habitiles in Falmouth Harbour

In the UK seaside town of Falmouth, a harbour wall is set to become a bristling habitat of marine flora and fauna following the recent installation of tiles designed to increase biodiversity.

The new ‘Habitiles’ attached to the east wall of Cornwall Council owned, Church Street Car Park are designed to provide niche habitats for a wide variety of inter-tidal marine species, helping to increase and maintain biodiversity in the heart of the harbour. 

To bring this installation to life, Falmouth Harbour has been working with Cornish environmental charity Our Only World in partnership with Falmouth Town Council and ARC Marine – a British company providing environmentally friendly solutions to the marine industry.

“A flat harbour wall doesn’t have the nooks and crannies which attract a diverse marine habitat and this is what the tiles aim to replicate,” says Tina Robinson from Our Only World. “We’ll see seaweeds and algae making their home here which then provide shelter and food for small invertebrates which in turn become a food source for larger animals.” 

The textured tiles designed by ARC Marine are made locally in Truro, Cornwall, utilising the waste by products from the granite and quarrying industries.  ARC Marine says its concrete has 91 per cent reduced emissions when compared with Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) and will soon be certified carbon neutral. It has also been confirmed that the tiles do not leach toxic material into the environment and do not contain any plastics or steel reinforcement, which can lead to concrete degradation once exposed to seawater.

Julian Chenoweth, manufacturing director at ARC Marine, comments: “ARC Marine is proud to be delivering our products so close to our manufacturing facility and to showcase our innovations in providing a bespoke solution for the installation’s objectives.  

“This project has already been a great learning experience in designing habitat enhancing features on existing sea walls and what species may benefit from rising and falling tides.  We can’t wait to see the colonisation of marine organisms in the coming months and to improve these designs further on a much larger scale.”

In March (2023) an ecological survey of the harbour wall was completed to establish a baseline level for biodiversity, with the aim of repeating this process in 2024 to monitor biodiversity increase.

“This is such an exciting project as we thoroughly expect the sea wall to go from a fairly barren expanse to a complex area hosting a greater variety of species,” says Falmouth Harbour’s environment manager Vicki Spooner. “And this gives us a great opportunity to work with local schools, colleges and universities to monitor the colonisation of these structures and develop survey skills. 

“We’re really grateful to Our Only World and their funders Sea-Changers and the Matthew Good Foundation for facilitating this installation and we can’t wait to find out more about how these tiles can help to increase biodiversity within our harbour.”

There are other similar projects globally, including one recently installed in Plymouth and four in Australia using panels created by Sydney based, Living Seawalls. In September (2023), Irish pontoon manufacturer Inland and Coastal Marina Systems signed an agreement with Living Seawalls to be its production partner and supplier in the UK and Ireland.

Main image courtesy of Kier and Falmouth Harbour.

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