Scientists at the University of Portsmouth believe a strategy used to protect popular surfing spots could now be more widely adopted to help preserve endangered coastal environments.

A new research paper, published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, says, ‘wave reserves’, initially aimed at protecting treasured surf spots, are also a way to ensure the conservation of ecologically valuable coastal areas.

The concept of wave reserves has gained popularity over the past few decades. The first wave reserve was established in Bells Beach, Australia in 1973 by surfers keen to defend their prized waves from damaging human activity. But it is especially since the beginning of the 2000s that the surfing community has established dozens of wave reserves around the world.

Waves can be affected by any number of factors such as the dredging of the seabed, building of dykes, changes in sediment regime and ocean acidification. The strategy has been so successful that in some locations there are now several large wave reserves being planned, with support from international NGOs such as Save The Waves.

The research from the University of Portsmouth finds this approach could help low and middle-income countries achieve global sustainability goals. Waves are not just important to surfers, they are also a vital part of the marine ecosystem. Waves play an active role in the gas exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere and in the movement of sediments. They also provide a favourable living environment for many aquatic species.

During the last 20 years the creation of wave reserves as a measure to preserve sports and recreational activities has aligned with initiatives to conserve the coastal environment. What is emerging is a win-win situation.

The research paper can be found here and coverage here and here.

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