“Enhancing biodiversity on tropical seawalls: the role of habitat complexity in regulating the diversity and composition of intertidal communities”
Thu 04 Apr 2013: 2.00pm
DBS Conference Room (S3, Level 5)
All are welcome
Abstract – “Increasing coastal urbanisation has resulted in widespread replacement of natural habitats with large-scale artificial structures, such as seawalls, which tend to support less diverse biological communities. With the realization that such infrastructure cannot be removed, there is now a call for more research into ways seawalls can be built to increase their value as a habitat while meeting engineering criteria.
To understand how seawalls can be better designed, I first focused on improving their structural complexity. Habitat complexity has been hypothesized to be one of the primary drivers of biodiversity, however, the mechanism(s) by which it does this remains unclear. One of the greatest impediments to advancing this critical area is the ambiguity regarding the definition of ‘complexity’.
In addition to making comparisons of ‘complexity studies’ highly problematic, this lack of terminological clarity and precision has undermined attempts to standardise the measurement of habitat complexity or to develop indices that can be used to create artificial habitats with different levels of complexity—an essential first step for both systematically studying the relationship between habitat complexity and biodiversity and for creating artificial habitats for restoration efforts.
I address these issues by describing a new framework for conceptualising ecological complexity and then introduce a novel software program that enables users to visualize static, physical complexity. My program also provides output files that can be used to create artificial substrates at any scale and level of complexity for experimental and/or restoration and reconciliation studies. With it, I built concrete tiles to test for the effects of complexity and different component types (while controlling for area) and subsequently, the effects of scale and water-retention.
With the knowledge gained from these experimental studies, I plan to design and fabricate a composite tile (BioBoss). Using this new tile, I will investigate the effects of other processes, including hydrodynamics, fragmentation and population dynamics.