Shipwrecks and other submerged structures are amazing natural laboratories where researchers can study ecological processes and community interactions resulting from localized disturbance events in our coastal oceans and deep seas. We know when man-made materials enter the ocean, a wide variety of organisms begin to aggregate and new communities form. But there are very few studies investigating these community-wide interactions and currently there are no quantitative, predictive capabilities when designing submerged structures such as piers, breakwater walls, or artificial reefs.
Given our desire to live within a few miles of every coastline on the planet, there will likely always be anthropogenic modification of existing shorelines. There will also come a time in the not-so-distant future when we need to mitigate the damage some of these modifications cause to our coastal oceans. Studying the effects of existing submerged structures, some having been acclimatizing to their ocean setting for hundreds or even thousands of years, will help inform engineers and managers how to bio-construct and monitor new structures which have the capability to enhance and promote ecosystems for a sustainable coexistence with our coastlines.