DescriptionReef-forming structures form integral aspects of coastal ecosystems, but are rapidly degrading on a global scale due to human activities and climate change. To mitigate these alarming declines, nature management and conservation science are increasingly relying on the restoration of habitat structuring foundation species (e.g., shellfish reefs, coral reefs). Artificial reefs are a popular restoration measure in submerged ecosystems which are geared towards enhancing benthic communities by mimicking reef-forming species or hard substrates. However, their application in intertidal ecosystems is limited.Therefore, we here aimed to examine biodiversity and food web structure on biodegradable artificial reefs in a soft-sediment intertidal ecosystem. To test whether artificial reefs increase biodiversity and food web complexity compared to surrounding bare soft-sediment flats, we conducted a large-scale restoration experiment using biodegradable artificial reefs, spread across ~650 m and followed for two and halve years on the intertidal flats of the Dutch Wadden Sea. In this experiment, we focused on both small-scale (macrozoobenthic fauna) and large-scale effects (food web networks) and found that artificial reefs 1) changed community composition of macrozoobenthic and increased biodiversity (Pilou’s Evenness -58% in 2019) on a small-scale, 2) increased species richness (+63%, S), link density (+12%, L) and the fraction of basal species (+37%) of the food web structure on a large scale compared to the control bare intertidal flat. Therefore, we can conclude that artificial reefs enhance benthic biodiversity, community structure and food web size and complexity in soft-bottom intertidal areas. In this session, we will further elaborate the importance of species interactions for ecosystem functioning through several mechanisms such as: bottom-up and top-down control, the interactionwith the abiotic environment and food web interactions in a variety of coastal ecosystems, such as subtidal waters, seagrass meadows and intertidal flats.
|Event title||Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2022|
|Organiser||Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN)|
|Degree of Recognition||National|
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