Complexity for artificial substrates (CASU): software for creating and visualising habitat complexity

Lynette H. L. Loke, Nicholas R. Jachowski, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Richard J. Ladle, Peter A. Todd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Physical habitat complexity regulates the structure and function of biological communities, although the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. Urbanisation, pollution, unsustainable resource exploitation and climate change have resulted in the widespread simplification (and loss) of habitats worldwide. One way to restore physical complexity to anthropogenically simplified habitats is through the use of artificial substrates, which also offer excellent opportunities to explore the effects of different components (variables) of complexity on biodiversity and community structure that would be difficult to separate in natural systems. Here, we describe a software program (CASU) that enables users to visualise static, physical complexity. CASU also provides output files that can be used to create artificial substrates for experimental and/or restoration studies. It has two different operational modes: simple and advanced. In simple mode, users can adjust the five main variables of informational complexity (i.e. the number of object types, relative abundance of object types, density of objects, variability and range in the objects' dimensions, and their spatial arrangement) and visualise the changes as they do so. The advanced mode allows users to design artificial substrates by fine-tuning the complexity variables as well as alter object-specific parameters. We illustrate how CASU can be used to create tiles of different designs for application in a marine environment. Such an ability to systematically influence physical complexity could greatly facilitate ecological restoration by allowing conservationists to rebuild complexity in degraded and simplified habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87990
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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