Elimination of specific taxa of a system using contaminants

Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto and Associate Professor Ross Coleman

Artifical patches

It has been hypothesised that a greater number of species in an assemblage might increase its inertia to, and its resilience following, a disturbance. The main idea is that more diverse assemblages are more stable, varying less in space and time, being less vulnerable to disturbances and invasions (MacArthur 1955, Elton 1958). An “updated” version of this theory is the “insurance hypothesis”. According to this, biodiversity insures that systems will not decline in functioning because many species will provide greater “guarantee” that some species will keep functioning even if one “fails” (Yachi & Loreau 1999). In other words, this model predicts that, in systems with many species, it is more likely that more than one species will have the same function in the system, e.g. occupying the same “category” such as predators, consumers or producers. So, if one species is eliminated, for example, by a disturbance, others can replace it, preventing any decline in the functioning of the system. This is, however, a very controversial theme in ecology (for detailed discussion see Cottingham et al. 2001, Hooper et al. 2005, Srivastava & Vellend 2005, Benedetti-Cecchi 2006, Hughes et al. 2007).


The aim of this project is to eliminate specific taxa of a system to understand their function and importance in this particular system. To do this, artificial habitats will be used as surrogates of Corallina officinalis algae turfs. Different types of contaminants will be used to eliminate different and specific taxa such as micro-gastropods or amphipods.


Understanding the species function in a system is extremely important for conversation and management of organisms and/or habitats.

Artifical patch

Results will be posted when they become available