Events

Thursday 15th February
Start time: 4:00pm
Venue: Brodie Tower, Room 106

Soundtrack of the Anthropocene: Importance of managing marine soundscapes in a rapidly changing world

In early life, the vast majority of coastal organisms face four major tests that together determine dispersal, survival and population replenishment. Once larvae are sufficiently well developed to leave their early-life open-water environments, they must locate and select suitable habitat, settle at locations with sufficient shelter, and avoid the immediate attention of many predators. Over the past 15 years, we have discovered the importance of the natural soundscape (combined with other cues) for guiding fish, crustacean and coral larvae towards reefs while allowing them to avoid predation. Habitat noise is generated by the resident community, so reefs and other coastal environments sound characteristically different and sound indicates the composition of the community and quality of the habitat, enabling larvae to locate and settle into appropriate microhabitat. But we live in an era of global change, with overfishing and environmental degradation compromising reef quality and associated reef noise, rising levels of atmospheric CO2 causing global warming and ocean acidification, and the noise of motorboats, ships, offshore industry and naval operations modifying natural soundscapes. Our work demonstrates that habitat degradation can alter natural soundscapes, ocean acidification can affect auditory behaviour of larvae, and that motorboat noise can affect orientation and settlement in larval fish and behaviour, physiology and survival of newly-settled reef fish. Following a summary of these studies, I will discuss current knowledge gaps and identify opportunities to manage and enhance the Soundtrack of the Anthropocene.

Dr Steve Simpson, University of Exeter


Thursday 15th March
Start time: 4:00pm
Venue: Brodie Tower, Room 106

Eco-engineering of the Grey: making space for nature in artificial shorelines

Coastal defence structures are proliferating as a result of rising sea levels and stormier seas. With the realisation that most coastal infrastructure cannot be lost or removed, research is required into ways that coastal defence structures can be built to meet engineering requirements, whilst also providing relevant ecosystem services - ecological engineering. This approach requires an understanding of the types of assemblages and their functional roles that are desirable and feasible in these novel ecosystems. I summarise research carried out by myself and the wider team on eco-engineering and I outline guidelines and recommendations to provide multiple ecosystem services while maintaining engineering efficacy. This work demonstrated that simple enhancement methods can be cost-effective measures to manage local biodiversity. Care is required, however, in the wholesale implementation of these recommendations without full consideration of the desired effects and overall management goals.

Dr Louise Firth, University of Plymouth


Thursday 19th April
Start time: 4:00pm
Venue: Brodie Tower, Room 106

Predicting invasive species impact: old challenges and new approaches

Invasion biology has faced a number of challenges concerning the impacts of invasive alien species.  One such challenge is the development of predictive methodologies that can reliably forecast the ecological impacts of existing, emerging and potential invasive species. These challenges need to be addressed to advance both the fundamental science of invasion ecology and provide practical methodologies that can mitigate invasions. Consequently, the comparison of the classical ‘functional response’ (relationship between resource use and availability) between invasive and trophically analogous native species may allow prediction of invader ecological impact. Indeed it has now been shown that a range of damaging invasive species have consistently higher functional responses than comparator native species. Importantly is has been shown that such heightened responses correlate to a high degree with known field impacts. Ecological impact of new and emerging invaders may therefore be predicted by the magnitude of difference in such functional responses. This seminar will review the work to date, demonstrating how comparisons between invasive and native species allow for testing of the likely population-level outcomes of invasion events for affected species across a broad range of aquatic systems.

Dr Mhairi Alexander, University of West Scotland