Harnessing Ecosystem Services in Coastal Engineering: Emu Lake Floating Islands Case Study
Updated: Oct 24
At International Coastal Management, we have personally witnessed the effectiveness of nature-based solutions (NBS) in addressing climate change and societal issues. Ecosystem services – the benefits provided by natural ecosystems that contribute to human well-being – are central to the concept of NBS. In this blog post, we'll delve into the concept of ecosystem services and the role they played in our project at Emu Lake.
4 Categories of the natural world
Ecosystem services are the numerous advantages we obtain from nature. They are typically divided into four categories: provisioning (e.g., food and water), regulating (e.g., climate regulation and flood control), cultural (e.g., spiritual and recreational advantages), and supporting (e.g., nutrient cycling, which supports all other ecosystem services).
Coastal engineering has become increasingly aware of the crucial role ecosystem services play in protecting and enhancing coastal communities. By utilising these services, NBS can sustainably address societal challenges such as disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.
Emu Lake Floating Islands: Addressing Challenges with Ecosystem Services
Due to seasonal rainfall and evaporation, the water level of Emu Lake fluctuates, resulting in nutrient flows that produce seasonal algal blooms. Our response? A series of artificial floating islands functioning as an artificial wetland to treat nutrient-rich water, enclosed by an impermeable clay bund in a designated area.
The design of the project took into account the number and arrangement of floating islands, the space required around them for optimal performance, and the water depths required for optimal performance of the islands. The design of the bund centred on providing a separate area of consistent water level for effective water treatment, with special attention paid to alignment, stability, permeability, and wave action protection.
These floating islands provide numerous ecological benefits. They provide habitats for local fauna (provisioning services), improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients (regulating services), and increase the lake's aesthetic and recreational value (cultural services). The islands sustain a thriving ecosystem (supporting services) by facilitating nutrient cycling and primary production.
Why Ecosystem Services Matter
Ecosystem services are invaluable, as they provide a wide range of benefits, from preserving biodiversity to improving the cost-effectiveness of conventional engineering techniques. In addition, recognising and valuing ecosystem services can aid in securing community and stakeholder support. When the community understands the value of thriving ecosystems, they are more likely to support conservation and restoration efforts.
At International Coastal Management, we integrate ecosystem services into our projects, showcasing the immense value of nature-based solutions in coastal engineering. The Emu Lake Floating Islands project is a testament to our commitment to harnessing nature's power in addressing climate change and societal challenges.
Want to know more about how ecosystem services can benefit your community or coastal project? Visit our website or contact us directly for more information.