We know that mangroves are essential to our coastal ecosystems. Not only do they provide protection from erosion, these hardy trees also offer a safe habitat for a variety of wildlife, and apparently sequester a lot of carbon too. But due to the world's voracious appetite for cheap shrimp, deforestation and rising sea levels, mangroves are being lost at an alarming rate each year.
But there are mangrove reforestation efforts out there, and to make it easier, some designers are stepping up to the challenge. Aiming to create a hybrid between a concrete-based breakwater defense against flooding and a mangrove planter, Taiwanese designer Sheng-Hung Lee has transformed the conventional "tetrapod" in the TetraPOT, which will not only protect coasts against floods, but also provide a place for real mangroves to take root, thanks to its hollow core.
According to Dezeen, TetraPOT's one-ton, tetrahedral shape holds a pre-seeded container made from compostable material, that will serve as the substrate from which the mangrove plant will grow. The plant's roots will be able to extend out and through holes at the bottom of the structure, which also let water wash in to feed the roots. If TetraPOTs are closely planted in a series, Lee estimates that it will take plants about 14 months before separate roots will eventually link up and join:
Current artificial sea defence structures tend to be dislodged over time by the force of the ocean constantly crashing against them. They have also been criticized for destroying the natural scenery along coastlines. [..But] the shape and placement will enable TetraPOTs to interlock with each other and form a structured web. The design not only prevents soil erosion, but also helps to protect and create a natural habitat. It's not only a defence, but also an ecosystem. A home for other living beings.
The idea here is to use the concrete as protection, not only against flooding and erosion, but also to keep maturing seedlings healthy and safe. Once the plants are fully grown, their roots will form an intertwined, natural barrier that's bolstered by their concrete pots. Another bonus is that the award-winning TetraPOTs, with mature mangroves growing out of them, won't be as unattractive to look at as their bare concrete cousins. Lee hopes to test his concept out by next year. See more over at Sheng-Hung Lee.