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Building with Nature Guideline > Building Solutions > Ecosystem engineers > Habitat requirements for corals 

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Habitat requirements for corals


This Building Block focuses on the creation of coral communities that change the near-bed flow and dissipate wave energy, thereby influencing sediment transport, erosion and deposition. This Building Solution is intended to provide ecological guidance on habitat requirements that are specifically needed to support coral communities rather than coral reefs. A coral reef is a complex ecosystem which can take a long time to develop and contains a large number of species. In this Building Solution, the focus is on coral communities, as they are less complex but still have the ability to function as an ecosystem engineer. The establishment and persistence of coral communities are wholly dependent on a range of highly-linked variables that in total define the environmental conditions of coral taxa (Harricott and Banks, 2002). While some of these may be manipulated, e.g. provision of hard substrata and correct elevation to reduce light limitation, many are ultimately dependent on large-scale processes and cannot be controlled. The Building Solution is intended to help with a first assessment of feasibility for a coral community on a specific location by using available local data.

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Determination flowchart for corals

Determination flowchart for corals

How to Use

If an ecosystem engineer is considered to be included in a design for coastal protection or coastal rehabilitation, several questions need to be answered:

  • Is it possible to create a suitable habitat for a specific ecosystem in the project area?
  • What would be the envisaged (protection) services of this system?
  • To what extent can the ecosystem contribute to the primary (protection) function of the design and how does this affect the design itself? For example, what dimensions of a coral reef are needed to reduce erosion or stabilize sediment? And what dimensions to act as an efficient dissipator of wind and waves?
  • What effects do the ecosystem engineers in this ecosystem have on the existing physical, ecological and socio-economical system?
  • What are the costs, uncertainties and risks involved when including those ecosystem engineers in the design?

In this Building Solution, the focus lies on the habitat requirements for corals. The determination flowchart gives a first answer to the suitability of the project area as a habitat for corals. Other questions can be elaborated in subsequent or parallel steps.

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Practical Applications

On the right a couple of cases is presented providing some application experiences that can be used as inspiration for future designs.

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