Can coir increase native biodiversity and reduce colonisation of non-indigenous species in eco-engineered rock pools?

Rebecca L. Morris*, Sophie Golding, Katherine A. Dafforn, Ross A. Coleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The expansion of built infrastructure in the marine environment threatens natural ecological communities at local and regional scales. An increasing interest in incorporating heterogeneity that is reflective of natural rocky shores into artificial structures through ecological engineering seeks to mitigate negative impacts. The addition of complex surfaces and novel habitats, such as water-retaining features, has been particularly successful at increasing biodiversity of marine infrastructures to date. Importantly, key habitat-forming groups, such as the complex turfing algae Corallina officinalis found on natural shores and their associated assemblages are still lacking from these eco-engineered features. Furthermore, whether observed biodiversity increases from eco-engineering are due to native or non-indigenous species remains largely unknown. Here, we investigated whether adding small-scale complexity (artificial turf) to artificial rock-pools ('flowerpots') on urban seawalls enhanced their effectiveness to increase native biodiversity. Responses of benthic invertebrates, algae, epifauna and fish in flowerpots with and without artificial turf (coir) were quantified. Contrary to existing literature, which reports an increase in biodiversity with an increase in complexity, no consistent effect of coir was seen on benthic, epifaunal or fish assemblages. Native species consistently occupied more than 95% of space in flowerpots while the proportion of non-indigenous species in flowerpots was small (<75% of the assemblage) regardless of treatment, and decreased over time. This result is promising, but warrants further investigation to determine if these trends reflect seasonal patterns or if non-indigenous species colonise early, but are replaced over time by native species. These are important considerations when planning large-scale deployments of eco-engineering features on seawalls to ensure that native species are targeted without increasing opportunities for non-indigenous species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-630
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Engineering
Early online date27 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial turf
  • biodiversity
  • green engineering
  • marine infrastructure
  • non-native species
  • rehabilitation


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