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Coastal defense through the construction of mussel beds (COASTBUSTERS 2.0)

Main research question/goal

Coastal protection measures are increasingly required due to the increased pressure of climate change. Sea level rise, intensification of storms, increasing beach erosion, etc. all threaten the ecosystem and significantly reduce coastal resilience. Current engineering approaches – both hard and soft measures – fall short in terms of efficiency and cost effective coastal protection. Stimulating biogenic reef development (three-dimensional living structures created by dense aggregations of organisms) can lead to a (semi-)natural coastal system, that will provide several ecosystem services, including coastal protection. Coastbusters 2.0 is a public-private innovation partnership that will deploy several reef-facilitating systems to induce the early stage of mussel bed formation in different dynamic nearshore coastal environments. Ultimately this will lead to the development of a nature-inspired (NID) coastal protection.

Research approach

Using mussel beds as coastal defense raises the following research questions: To what extent can biodegradable materials be used instead of conventional materials and textiles as construction components for the offshore mussel farming installation? What is the most appropriate technical, spatial and temporal design of the offshore set-up to efficiently stimulate biogenic reef forming and mussel survival under different hydrodynamic conditions? How can the use of advanced observation techniques lead to a better, scientific follow-up of the construction and evolution of these mussel beds? What are the preconditions for the formation and survival of such newly formed mussel beds? What is the added value to biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services of these artificial mussel beds? ILVO's contribution is to scientifically determine the preconditions and added ecosystem values and services. ILVO will formulate well-founded advice on the design of the offshore set-up, since it is inspired by mussel farming practices.


The innovations inherent to Coastbusters 2.0 are the use of biodegradable and sustainable materials next to the groundbreaking configuration and the modular structure of the offshore setups. We expect new, scientifically-based observation methodologies and an extensive knowledge building on the preconditions and ecosystem processes of the newly formed mussel beds. We will develop novel monitoring techniques and strategies, we unravel the underlying habitat development mechanisms and refine the quantification of ecosystem services. The expertise on mussel and biogenic reef development fits within the so-called Coastbusters branding strategy, which is working on a portfolio of research-driven NID projects within the framework of independent and various co-financing schemes.

Funding provider(s)

External partner(s)
Dredging International
Jan De Nul
Vlaams Instituut voor de zee
Date:1 Feb 2020 →  Today
Disciplines:Marine ecology, Environmental management, Environmental monitoring, Environmental impact and risk assessment, Ecosystem services, Conservation and biodiversity, Aquaculture