About this Research Topic
This Research Topic aims to advance research in the field of habitat utilisation by marine populations with particular reference to sub-sea artificial structures to assess systematically the influence of their physical presence on biological connectivity and marine ecosystem dynamics. The question of how life cycle and distribution of different marine species is related to seafloor heterogeneity has become increasingly important following:
1. Discovery of abundance and biodiversity hotspots around seafloor features such as cold-water corals, biogenic substrates, natural bedrock, as well as large sub-sea man-made structures including, but not limited to, shipwrecks, offshore energy infrastructure, aquaculture associated structures, coastal infrastructure, disaster debris, etc;
2. Increasing demand for the placement of coastal and offshore facilities for energy (e.g. oil and gas/wind farms/marine renewables), aquaculture (e.g. salmon/oysters/mussels/scallops/seaweeds) and civil engineering sectors (e.g. bridges/pier pilings/breakwaters);
3. Evidence of the degradation of seafloor habitat by destructive fishing methods, historically impacting resilience of exploited marine populations over the wider marine ecosystem;
4. Advances in fishing technology so that reefs, wrecks and other sea floor features are readily targeted with more effort shifting away from traditional smooth fishing grounds; and,
5. Increasing requirements for spatial management of the sea floor and designation of marine protected areas;
Anthropogenic structures are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the marine environment globally. Many species seemingly benefit from physical presence of such artificial features which provide complex three-dimensional hard substrates and a greater number of ecological niches with a wider range of available resources (e.g. secure attachment, access to currents, shelter, food, etc); however, sphere of influence as well as role of these artificial habitats in biological connectivity and marine ecosystem dynamics at wider spatial scales is poorly understood.
There are increasing concerns over the state of the quality and quantity of marine bio-resources (e.g. biodiversity, fish stocks). Management of marine resources ultimately requires knowledge in the dynamic behaviour of spatially distributed marine populations and their life-cycle-related movements across heterogeneous habitats.
This Research Topic therefore seeks to compile articles of inter-disciplinary research areas which focus on links between marine ecosystem dynamics and anthropogenic structures of various types from regions across the globe. The goal is to better integrate available knowledge and advance our ability to implement sustainable management of marine ecosystems and resources.
Keywords: Artificial reefs, Anthropogenic activities, Marine habitat diversity, Conservation, Marine resource management
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