Spatially variable effects of artificially-created physical complexity on subtidal benthos

Kathryn A. O’Shaughnessy*, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, Elisabeth M. A. Strain, Melanie J. Bishop, Stephen J. Hawkins, Mick E. Hanley, Paul Lunt, Richard C. Thompson, Tomer Hadary, Raviv Shirazi, Anna L. E. Yunnie, Axelle Amstutz, Laura Milliet, Clara L. X. Yong, Louise B. Firth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)
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    In response to the environmental damage caused by urbanization, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are being implemented to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem processes with mutual benefits for society and nature. Although the field of NbS is flourishing, experiments in different geographic locations and environmental contexts have produced variable results, with knowledge particularly lacking for the subtidal zone. This study tested the effects of physical complexity on colonizing communities in subtidal habitats in two urban locations: (1) Plymouth, United Kingdom (northeast Atlantic) and (2) Tel Aviv, Israel (eastern Mediterranean) for 15- and 12-months, respectively. At each location, physical complexity was manipulated using experimental tiles that were either flat or had 2.5 or 5.0 cm ridges. In Plymouth, biological complexity was also manipulated through seeding tiles with habitat-forming mussels. The effects of the manipulations on taxon and functional richness, and community composition were assessed at both locations, and in Plymouth the survival and size of seeded mussels and abundance and size of recruited mussels were also assessed. Effects of physical complexity differed between locations. Physical complexity did not influence richness or community composition in Plymouth, while in Tel Aviv, there were effects of complexity on community composition. In Plymouth, effects of biological complexity were found with mussel seeding reducing taxon richness, supporting larger recruited mussels, and influencing community composition. Our results suggest that outcomes of NbS experiments are context-dependent and highlight the risk of extrapolating the findings outside of the context in which they were tested.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number690413
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. 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.


    • artificial structures
    • biodiversity
    • eco-engineering
    • ecological engineering
    • mussels
    • ocean sprawl
    • seeding
    • urbanization


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