Gardening experiments to promote desired species

Sabellaria alveolata recruits were seen for the first time on Tywyn breakwater in October 2011, 18 months after construction. Photo: L. Firth

Recent research in Italy is examining the feasibility of controlling the growth of target, possibly desirable species on coastal defence structures. Work has focused on canopy macroalgae, which are important habitat formers and are clearly threatened by loss at global scales.

Experiments have shown the potential for recovery of these habitats through various strategies and techniques, including transplanting or seeding algae back to their original habitat.

URBANE research on gardening experiments

Sabellaria alveolata providing substratum for a suite of other species on Hilbre Island. Photo: L. Firth

As a spin-off of the URBANE project, we have been successful in attracting funding for a project in collaboration with Pippa Moore and Ally Evans (Aberystwyth University).

We aim to investigate the efficacy of transplanting desired species onto artificial structures in an effort to expedite the colonization process and to test hypotheses about the timing of recruitment in determining the resultant community structure. Biogenic habitat species of ecological and conservation importance have been selected for the study: Mytilus edulis, fucoid algae and Sabellaria alveolata due to their role in habitat provision for other species.