Habitat Enhancement

Mussels are only occupying the crevices created by the blasting process on the Tywyn Breakwater. Photo: L. Firth

Habitat complexity has a strong role determining the structure and functioning of communities in marine systems. Natural rocky shores are often heterogeneous environments comprising rough surfaces and multiple habitats which provide refuge against predators and physical stress.

Artificial structures are often made of unnatural materials or very hard natural rocks (e.g. granite) which are less susceptible to weathering, thereby maintaining a smooth surface limiting the diversity of organisms which can colonise these structures.

Even tiny rock pools can support diverse assemblages of organisms. The pool here on Plymouth Breakwater is only about 8cm diameter and 5cm deep. Photo: L. Firth

By incorporating surface roughness and desirable habitat features (i.e. rock pools, crevices & pits) into man-made structures it is possible to enhance the quality of the habitat and increase the diversity of colonising epibiota.