While significant efforts have been directed towards disturbance and recovery processes in soft-sediment systems, very few have conducted empirical tests of scale-dependency in recovery. However, doing this is important as it addresses the role of scale in ecological processes and thus aims at bridging the gap between the scale of environmental problems (usually large) and the scale over which marine ecologists typically employ their studies (usually small). In the proposed study I will use disturbance at different scales to investigate the patterns in early recruitment of benthic invertebrates and its environmental control.
To date the key issue hampering the development of an understanding of recruitment mechanisms is:
(a) the difficulty to separate larval and post-settlement stages because of the need for more or less continuous sampling of the water column and sediment for recruits and,
(b) linking this information to the environmental variables (e.g. wind-waves) that trigger recruitment events.
This study will implement newly developed technology to address these issues and experimentally investigate recruitment in soft-sediment communities of the Baltic Sea. The specific objectives are to (1) determine the relative contribution of larval and post-settlement stages and the role of wind-wave disturbance in early recruitment in shallow sediments, and (2) apply studies of scale-dependent colonisation to deeper Baltic Sea sediments.
The project will expand our ability to decipher the critical factors that interact to determine responses to disturbance and recovery dynamics. The project will further build on the capacity for the forecasting of environmental change and developing the research base required to support the sustainable management of marine biodiversity including, for example, monitoring the health of marine ecosystems, and the conservation of marine biodiversity.
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