Small-scale habitat complexity of artificial turf influences the development of associated invertebrate assemblages

James T. Lavender*, Katherine A. Dafforn, Melanie J. Bishop, Emma L. Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Ecosystem engineers can influence biodiversity by enhancing complexity, and modifying the availability of resources. Understanding the mechanisms by which ecosystem engineers shape biodiversity is central to the concept of 'ecological engineering' of anthropogenic structures to enhance biodiversity. Here the presence and complexity of artificial turf was manipulated on an artificial structure to test the hypothesis that the colonisation of sessile invertebrates and mobile epibiota would vary with habitat complexity. Both sessile and mobile assemblage compositions differed according to the presence of artificial turf, and its complexity. Sessile invertebrates occupied greater proportions of available space on topographically simple 'blank' surfaces or low complexity artificial turf than those with high complexity turf, whereas mobile taxa were generally more abundant on the turf. However, the mobile assemblage was unrelated to the sessile assemblage when examined within each level of initial substrata complexity. Contrary to the increasing number of studies demonstrating nested hierarchical relationships between co-occurring ecosystem engineers, this study provides an example of an ecosystem engineer mimic (artificial turf) leading to the formation of habitat mosaics at small scales. The introduction of complex substrata to otherwise topographically simple artificial structures is a promising means of actively influencing assemblage composition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-112
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


    • complexity
    • sessile
    • mobile
    • artificial turf
    • assemblages
    • ecosystem engineering


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