Anthropogenic disturbances of coastal habitats

Tyre reef

Urban cities generate considerable potential for ecological disturbance leading to environmental degradation. In particular, there are problems for organisms on hard and soft substrata because of building jetties, seawalls, pilings, etc. Human disturbances include foraging for bait and food and disposal of wastes. The research to understand ecological changes due to these disturbances is time-consuming and long-term, particularly when experimental analyses of processes during disturbances are planned. The major themes for research include the three major classes of disturbance listed above.

Environmental impacts are categorized by their predictability or its lack, by their time-course and spatial extent and by the ways in which they disrupt natural processes. In all cases, an impact is an unnatural change to flora and fauna in response to some planned or accidental change in habitat (by disturbance, removal or addition of patches of habitat) or contamination by chemicals, nutrients, etc.

Predicting, measuring and interpreting impacts are hamstrung by poor sampling and analysis - often dictated by inadequate statutory requirements for Environmental Impact Statements. One major problem is that natural ecological assemblages of species vary enormously from time to time and place to place. Thus, even when undisturbed by people, ecological patterns are very different from place to place and change rapidly from time to time. Determining how best to identify, measure and interpret (and, ultimately, predict, manage and prevent) impacts requires intensive research effort

The Centre is active in numerous projects to develop better methods to detect and measure impacts. We are also doing unique research on artificial habitats created by urban infrastructure and are active in projects investigating problems caused by harvesting of populations in fisheries and recreational destruction of coastal invertebrates for food and bait for recreational fishing.

The projects in this programme have been centred around classes of disturbances, rather than habitats