From research comes a green solution to ensure safe distancing at the beach in the COVID-19 post-emergency phase. The idea is to use Posidonia oceanica, a marine plant present in large quantities on the Mediterranean shores, to create ecological safety barriers. The innovative solution – developed by ENEA in collaboration with the company Ecofibra – consists of dividing panels padded with dried Posidonia to separate umbrellas and create access paths to water, in line with current health regulations.
“These barriers, easily reusable and made with 100% natural materials, would make it possible to safely access areas otherwise closed for swimming and reduce the dispersion of aerosols, with a positive impact on the accommodation industry” explained Sergio Cappucci of the ENEA Laboratory for Seismic Engineering and Prevention of Natural Risks, who patented this system, also useful for mats, deckchairs, cushions and other furnishings, with a view to circular economy and environmental and biodiversity protection, offering new opportunities for economic development.
These prototypes of ecological “booths”, approximately 120 cm high and 200 cm wide, have steel frames and recycled plastic or natural materials lining; at the end of the season the padding can be emptied on the beach, resuming its original protection role from the erosive action caused by the waves.
These barriers could also offer a solution to the proper management of beached Posidonia, which covers large areas of coast and emits bad odours: in fact, if collected with other waste, it must be disposed of, with huge costs for operators and local administrations.
Posidonia oceanica is an important indicator of the health of the sea, also capable of reducing coastal erosion, producing oxygen, contributing to the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity.
Its removal, in addition to subtracting large quantities of sand from beaches, depriving them of natural protection from storm surges, also removes biomass and important nutrients for coastal ecosystems, with the consequent impoverishment of biodiversity.
A recent study has calculated that the mechanical removal of beached Posidonia, the so-called “banquette”, in 19 beaches over 9 years (2010-2018) has resulted in a volume of over 39,000 cubic meters of sand lost, equivalent to about 30,000 tons of sand.
In order to promote the importance of Posidonia oceanica and valorise the “banquette”, two “open-air laboratories” will be set up at the Circeo National Park and the Palude di Torre Flavia Natural Monument next June, as part of the project BARGAIN, developed by ISPRA, University of Tor Vergata and ENEA, with the contribution of the Lazio Region.
Source: media relation ENEA