Where ecologically 'tis better to go brown than green: enhanced seagrass macrobenthic biodiversity within the canals of a brownfield coastal marina.
At the start of the 21st century, a coastal residential-estate marina was developed on a previously degraded and polluted brownfield island site within Knysna estuarine bay, Garden Route National Park, South Africa, including the creation of 25 ha of new flow-through tidal canals. Canals near the larger entrance to this system now support permanently submerged beds of seagrass, which in turn support abundant macrobenthic invertebrates. In comparison with equivalent seagrass-associated assemblages present in natural channels around the island, those in the artificial marina canals were similarly structured and dominated by the same species, but the marina assemblages were significantly more species-rich (1.4 x on average) and were more abundant. Indeed, this area of marina supports the richest seagrass-associated macrofaunal biodiversity yet recorded from South Africa. The canals created de novo therefore now form a valuable addition to the bay's marine habitat, in marked contrast to the generality that marinas developed on greenfield sites represent a net reduction in intertidal and shallow marine area and associated seagrass-associated benthos. If located and constructed appropriately, brownfield marina development and conservation of coastal marine biodiversity clearly need not be antithetical, and brownfield sites may provide opportunity for the location and management of 'artificial marine micro-reserves' or for the action of 'other effective area-based conservation measures' for soft-sediment faunas.