AN ISLE of Wight company is at the forefront of a major international research project to support coastal marine life.

There are around 100 'Vertipools' — artificial rockpools invented by Island company Artecology that provide habitats for marine life including shellfish, squid, crabs and fish — around the UK.

That number that will be doubled over the next four years thanks to the EU-funded €4.6 million project, aimed at increasing biodiversity.

The Vertipools are fixed to harbour and sea walls, including on the Island at Yarmouth, Sandown at Compton.

They have also been placed at Wightlink's Fishbourne port, and the ferry company has teamed teamed up with ecologists and engineers at Bournemouth University to take part in the project.

Bournemouth University’s Dr Roger Herbert said: "Habitat loss is a serious threat to marine life as coastal development increases, and sea level rises with climate warming.

"We will assess how Vertipools work in practice, and how they can be designed for new structures and retro-fitted to existing sea walls and harbours."

Artecology director Nigel George said: "Artecology is all about making space for wildlife in the places we build for people, whether that’s a sea wall or a city.

"There’s so much more that we can do to boost urban biodiversity, and Marineff is exactly what’s needed to push forward these ideas."

The Vertipools are cast in natural low-carbon concrete and hand-finished to provide interesting, rough surfaces.

Most harbour walls and coastal infrastructure have a smooth finish without any holes or grooves for species to attach to and hide in.

Vertipools increase biodiversity by providing seawater pools, cracks and crevices for species to find cover at low tide.

They will be installed in several places on both sides of the Channel in the spring, including a new site on the Isle of Wight.

“We are delighted to join researchers and partners in this fascinating project," said Wightlink chief executive, Keith Greenfield.

"We value the diversity of the Solent’s rich marine life around our ports, and look forward to updating staff and customers on the progress of this research."

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