ReSilience of long-lived MARine sTructural species in a changing world: towards a sustainable coastal management and restoration (SMART)

 

Anthropogenic stressors such as overexploitation, habitat alteration, pollution and climate change are becoming the dominant drivers of community structure in marine ecosystems. As a consequence, the ecosystem resilience is being eroded to the extent that marine communities are unable to recover after recurrent disturbances, as they have done successfully throughout their evolutionary history. However, most research focuses on documenting declines and searching for their causes rather than exploring processes of recovery of marine benthic communities.

Like most marine ecosystems worldwide, the Mediterranean Sea is highly impacted by several human-mediated threats. Among marine Mediterranean communities, rocky benthic communities are highly diverse and exhibit great structural complexity. One of the key groups are structural species such as sessile invertebrate (gorgonians and corals among others) and long-lived algae, which are slow-growing species with significant effects on the structure and function of their communities. Given the expected increase in frequency and severity of the major threats affecting Mediterranean rocky benthic communities dominated by long-lived structural species, a critical question for scientists and managers to ask when addressing escalating environmental threats is to what extent these communities recover or regenerate after disturbances. Hence, the main aim of the SMART Project is to examine the resilience (as a measure of recovery and resistance) of long-lived marine structural species facing global change. Combining field surveys, field and lab experiments, genetic studies and modelling tools, we will examine the interplays between processes underlying this resilience such as recruitment, connectivity, genetic diversity and resistance to disturbances.

Funding

The SMART project (CGL2012-32194)is funded by the Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad from the Spanish Government for 3 years, from January 2012 to December 2015.