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Part 2 of a series investigating sustainable development of marinas.

By Oliver Witt

Environmental Sustainability for Marinas

Probably the first aspect which springs to mind when talking about sustainability, considering environmental sustainability is now essential in any development on land or on the water. In this article we examine the requirements for sustainable development, the opportunities it presents.

Development of the coastal or riparian zone will inevitably have an impact on the local environment, with potential impacts even further afield depending upon the nature of the development. The challenge is to safeguard the condition of the waterways and surrounding land, and prevent damage to biodiversity; great benefits can be achieved by maintaining and even improving the local environment and its associated biodiversity, allowing the public to engage with and enjoy the terrestrial and marine environment. This ensures a strong public perception of environmental guardianship by the business and promotes a healthy environment for aesthetic and recreational purposes, which contributes to enhancing health, social cohesion, and the attraction of a destination [1].

In the UK, new developments are monitored closely and will often require consent to modify the coastline, seabed, and the water above it. However, the requirements for consent often cover only the minimum environmental management needed to offset damage to the site (although larger developments may be required to provide habitat mitigation/compensation measures greater than the original loss). There are some great opportunities to reduce environmental impact initially and in the long term to help promote the marina as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly destination.

Waterside brownfield sites are often excellent sites for new developments, usually retaining useful quay wall infrastructure and yard areas, but offering great opportunities for remediation and regeneration. This allows the installation of ‘green infrastructure’, which is the network of green spaces, water, and other environmental features in both urban and rural areas[1]. Thus improving the quality of the site, provide better air quality, stormwater management among a host of other benefits [2].

Interaction with the water is the main attraction of any marina, and it is essential that high water quality standards are maintained. Oil spills, detergents, and general waste can all easily end up in the marina basin. Not only does this have an immediate deleterious impact on the environment, it also gives boat users and visitors a negative image of the marina and its approach to taking care of the environment. Building a reputation of environmental protection and promoting guardianship of the marine environment among all users of the site will help improve the overall perception of the marina, and ensure that boat users feel that the environment they enjoy is being protected.

Providing an environmental management plan for ongoing operations can reinforce the perception of a responsible marina and reduce ongoing running costs if considered carefully. Day-to-day costs can be reduced by preventing unnecessary waste, providing and promoting recycling facilities, and reducing energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient materials and lighting. Not only are there direct cost-savings involved, but there will be less likelihood of any legislative liability if environmental best practice is followed, as well as improving the public image and perception of the marina.

Environmental sustainability can go as far as habitat improvement in the marine environment. Often where coastlines are developed the natural sandy or rocky shore environment is replaced with hard, vertical structures which provide much less protection and food for marine organisms. There is now a multitude of artificial structures which attempt to mimic the complexity of a natural benthic environment, providing habitats for juvenile fish and crustaceans which are often left homeless when their natural shoreline habitat is destroyed. Whilst it is recommended that environmentally-friendly solutions and structures are considered at the design stage, it is more often the case that habitat improvement solutions are installed at a later stage, at greater cost. This is often due to initial financial constraints, or simply that potential environmental impacts are overlooked in the design.

Finally, the emerging issue of biosecurity is being recognised as a vital component in ensuring a healthy and natural marine environment for marina users to enjoy into the future. By their nature, marinas are subject to vessels arriving from and departing to a wide variety of locations which can pose a risk through the introduction of non-native (and often invasive) species. The Chinese Mitten Crab, Killer Shrimp, and Japanese Knotweed are all relatively well-known invasive species to the UK which can prove extremely harmful to natural habitats, out-competing, or even killing native species. Formulating a biosecurity plan to help prevent the introduction of non-native species is considered best practice in ensuring a healthy and natural marine habitat [3].

As seen already, environmental sustainability covers a huge range of design and operational aspects of a marina – however, the preservation of the local land and marine environment has great benefits in providing an image of responsibility and investment in the destination by the marina, ensuring customer satisfaction by providing a clean and natural environment on land and in the water.

Changes in the infrastructure or management of a site will inevitably have effects on the natural environment, and it is key that any adverse impacts are managed and mitigated or compensated for effectively. The surrounding environment forms the foundation of any waterside destination, and as such careful environmental management is required to preserve the area to maintain the appeal and reputation as an environmentally friendly destination.

See part one of this series, "Developing Marinas for Sustainability" here.

Read the next part of this series, "Socio-Cultural Sustainability for Marinas", here.

[1] UK Department for Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs (2011, June) The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature.

[2] Natural England (2009) Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Guidance (NE176)

[3] Payne, R.D., Cook, E.J., Macleod A. & Brown, S. (2015) Marine Biosecurity Planning


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