Effects of structure of habitat on diversity of benthic assemblages

Miguel Matias (Supervisors: Associate Professor Ross Coleman, Professor Tony Underwood and Dr Dieter Hochuli)

Artificial Habitats on Rocky Shore

The large and growing human population on the local coast has led to destruction of natural habitats, which is among the leading causes of loss of biodiversity. The loss of biological diversity is occurring at an unprecedented rate.

Changes in structure of habitats (e.g. loss or fragmentation of habitat) are regarded as contributing to the decline of populations of many species. The loss (i.e. destruction) of natural habitats causes loos of individuals and the decline of populations. The causal relationships between changes in structure of habitats and the abundance and diversity of organisms are not, however, understood, mostly because there are several logical issues related with the interpretation of patterns of diversity among habitats (Matias, Underwood & Coleman, in press). Understanding the processes influenced by disturbance to and modification of habitats on natural habitats provide help with their protection and management.


The purpose of this project is to investigate the effects of habitat structure on diversity of benthic species. Some general models can account for differences between the way assemblages occupy different habiats: (1) Habitats difer because they are made up of different types of componetns (e.g. thick branching seaweeds intermingled with thin, filamentous species;(2) Habitats have the same components but differ because these occur in different amounts; (3) Habitats differ in configuration of components(i.e. the components are scattered differently across each habitat); (4) Habitats differ in connectivity, i.e. components are next to other components.

These models are being investigated using assemblages of intertidal invertebrates colonizing experimental patches of habitat constructed of different types of components in different mixtures. Artificial turfs are used because they have been shown to be excellent mimics for natural coralline turf.

Patches underwater

The structure of habitat has been measured in many ways making comparisons among habitats problematic. The experiments in this project will allow development of a new synthesis of how relationships among components of habitat can be combined into a general definition of habitat. This will allow simpler and more reliable understanding of the way animals and plants use different habitats.


Results will be posted in time