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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 661:71-82 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13620

Ecological enhancement of breakwater upgrades: size and type of rocks used influence benthic communities

Lea T. Mamo1,*, Melinda A. Coleman1,2, Brendan P. Kelaher1

1National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
2Department of Primary Industries, NSW Fisheries, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Existing coastal breakwaters are ageing and will need to be upgraded to withstand additional forces associated with rising sea levels and storms. Structural upgrades can affect taxa living on or adjacent to breakwaters. These impacts can be mitigated by ecological engineering of breakwaters, which can enhance habitat quality without losing their primary purpose of protection. A recently upgraded breakwater at Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia was eco-engineered to use boulder fields to mitigate impacts on a critically endangered alga (Nereia lophocladia) living on and adjacent to the infrastructure. Over a year, we assessed the effect of different rock sizes (small versus large), types (greywacke versus granite) and orientations (top versus bottom) on the composition and diversity of benthic taxa. N. lophocladia has yet to recruit to the eco-engineered habitat; however, we found rock size, type and orientation significantly influenced overall benthic assemblage composition, at least at one of the sites. Furthermore, the bottom of the rocks had a higher taxonomic diversity than the top side, and assemblages on native greywacke rocks were more diverse than those on granite, but only at one of the two sites. Overall, the magnitude of differences in benthic assemblage structure and diversity showed substantial temporal and spatial variation, with no clear temporal trends or successional patterns. Our results indicate that the ecological outcomes of coastal protection infrastructure upgrades could be improved by including native rocks of a range of different sizes in multiple patches and layers.


KEY WORDS: Coastal protection · Ecological engineering · Benthic · Coastal ecosystems · Habitat restoration · Boulder habitat


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Cite this article as: Mamo LT, Coleman MA, Kelaher BP (2021) Ecological enhancement of breakwater upgrades: size and type of rocks used influence benthic communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 661:71-82. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13620

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