Effects of Species Loss and Nutrients on Biodiversity

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Resource or Project Abstract

The focus of this study was to disentangle the effects of multiple stressors on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and stability. This project examined the effects of anthropogenic increased nutrient loads on the diversity of coastal ecosystems and the effects of loss of species on ecosystem functioning. Specifically, the direct effect of sewage outfalls on benthic communities was assessed using a fully replicated survey that incorporated spatial and temporal variation. In addition, two field experiments examined the effects of loss of species at multiple trophic levels, and tested for potential interactive effects with enhanced nutrient concentration conditions on benthic assemblage structure and ecosystem functioning. This research addressed priority issues outlined in the Biodiversity Knowledge Programme for Ireland (2006) and also aimed to deliver information relevant to European Union (EU) directives (the Water Framework Directive [WFD], the Habitats Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive).

The findings show that while there was no effect of sewage outfalls on benthic taxon diversity or assemblage structure, the variability of assemblages was greater at sites proximal or adjacent to sewage outfalls compared to those shores without sewage outfalls. Results based on the RSL show that algal assemblages were not affected by the presence of sewage outfalls, except when algal taxa were classed into functional groups, which showed greater variability at the sites without sewage present. A key finding of both surveys was the prevalence of spatial and temporal variation of assemblages. It is recommended that future metrics of ecological status are based on quantified sampling designs, that they incorporate changes in the variability of assemblages (indicative of community stability), that they consider shifts in assemblage structure and that they include benthic fauna and flora to assess the status of rocky shores. This study identified specific interactions between the effects of species loss and environmental conditions in a marine benthic system, and highlights the importance of context-dependency. More empirical evidence is required to improve current ecological models that aim to predict the effects of loss of species on ecosystem functioning under different environmental conditions. Future studies should: (i) incorporate predicted environmental changes, such as sea temperate increases and ocean acidification; (ii) measure multiple ecosystem functions, such as nutrient cycling, decomposition rates, carbon fluxes etc.; and (iii) address ecosystem stability.

This project aimed to disentangle multiple anthropogenic impacts on benthic marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In particular, it set out to investigate (i) the effects of loss of species; (ii) effects of enhanced nutrients; and (iii) interactive effects between species loss and nutrient concentration, on the diversity and ecosystem functioning of rocky shores. Using an extensive sampling strategy and experimental manipulations, the project objectives were to: Test for the effects of sewage outfalls on the diversity of rocky shores, including identifying the scale of putative effects; Test and develop current tools for assessing the ecological status of rocky shores in line with the WFD; Test experimentally for the effects of loss of consumer species richness and identity on the diversity and functioning of rock pool assemblages and manipulate nutrient concentration to test if such effects interact with environmental conditions; Test experimentally for direct and indirect effects of the loss of benthic species from multiple trophic levels on algal assemblages and manipulate nutrient concentration to further test the context dependency of results.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Nessa O'Connor
Queen's University Belfast
Lecturer in Marine Biology
School of Biological Sciences, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland
Telephone: +44 28 9097 2127
e-mail: n.oconnor@qub.ac.uk

Dr. Tasman Crowe
University College Dublin
Senior Lecturer
School of and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfied, Dublin 4, Ireland
Telephone: +353 1 716 2194
e-mail: tasman.crowe@ucd.ie

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_87_oconnel_biodiversity_prn.pdf.pdf  (1.84 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_87_OConnor_Marine_web.pdf  (1.43 Mb)

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Author(s)O'Connor, N. Crowe, T.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationEffects of Species Loss and Nutrients on Biodiversity
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=5a2526c6-944f-11e1-8a83-005056ae0019
Unique Identifier5a2526c6-944f-11e1-8a83-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2018-03-19

An example of this citation in proper usage:

O'Connor, N. Crowe, T.   "Effects of Species Loss and Nutrients on Biodiversity ". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland http://erc.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=5a2526c6-944f-11e1-8a83-005056ae0019 (Last Accessed: 2018-03-19)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/display?isoID=269
Resource KeywordsAnthropogenic Impacts Marine Biodiversity: Enhanced Nutrients Species Loss Biodiversity Ecosystem Rocky Shores
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2007-FS-B-8-M5
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Tuesday 1st May 2007 (01-05-2007)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st May 2007 (01-05-2007)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st May 2012 (01-05-2012)
Published on SAFERWednesday 2nd May 2012 (02-05-2012)
Date of Last EditTuesday 9th July 2013 at 15:22:45 (09-07-2013)
Datasets or Files Updated On Tuesday 9th July 2013 at 15:22:45 (09-07-2013)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
A sampling strategy was designed to test for the effects of sewage outfalls on rocky shores and to identify the scale of the putative impact. Benthic assemblages were compared by measuring 20 (25 x 25 cm) replicate samples from three shores with sewage outfalls, at sites proximal to the outfall (<10 m), at sites adjacent to the outfall (30?50 m) and on rocky shores without sewage outfalls (>2,000 m). All sites were moderately exposed rocky shores in north Co. Dublin and each site was sampled four times (approximately every three months). A separate sampling strategy based on the Reduced algal Species List (RSL), which is the current WFD monitoring tool for rocky shores, was also completed at each shore during the summer months, by identifying algae and measuring percent cover in 30 (50 x 50 cm) replicate samples at each shore. A field experiment, at ambient and enhanced nutrient concentration conditions, tested for effects of loss of species (richness and identity) of grazing gastropods on primary productivity and algal assemblage structure and biomass, using a series of purpose- built experimental rock pools at Carnsore Point, Co. Wexford. Another field experiment carried out at ambient and enhanced nutrient concentration conditions tested for effects of loss of species from multiple trophic levels on algal assemblage structure and biomass, at a moderately exposed rocky reef at Rush, Co. Dublin. Both experiments ran for over 12 months and required regular maintenance. To test for the effects of municipal sewage outfalls on the diversity of rocky shores and to identify the scale of a putative impact, benthic assemblages were sampled (i) proximate to an outfall (<10 m from outfall), (ii) adjacent to an outfall (30?50 m from outfall) and (iii) at ?control? locations (>2 km from outfall). Following consultation with Fingal County Council and extensive field inspections, six locations in north Co. Dublin were selected for this study. Rocky shore assemblages were sampled proximate and adjacent to sewage outfalls at Rush, Loughshinney and Portrane and at control shores at Bremore (north of Balbriggan), Barnageeragh (Skerries) and Portmarnock.

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The aim of the WFD is to retain ?high status? where it exists, attain at least ?good? status in all water bodies and to ensure no further deterioration by 2015. Reaching this target requires integrated management and planning based on River Basin Districts (RBDs). Ireland?s Water Framework Monitoring Programme includes a series of metrics developed for the monitoring and classification of coastal and transitional waters based on macrophytes, macroalgal and angiosperm communities (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] 2006). The Marine Ecological Tools for Reference and Classification (METRIC) project was part of the Inter- calibration Exercise of Biological Quality Elements (BQEs) aimed at harmonising ecological quality criteria for the assessment of transitional and coastal waters of Europe (Cusack et al. 2008). Under the WFD, there is a requirement to set class boundaries for the ecological quality ratios (EQRs) of all BQEs (Cusack et al. 2008). The EQR is the numerical mechanism for reporting on the quality of waters and is defined as the relationship between the reference value and the observed value after an assessment. Marine task teams have developed a number of water quality assessment tools for each BQE: however, only the macroalgal Reduced Species List (RSL) is used for monitoring rocky shores in Ireland (Orfanidis et al. 2001; Wells et al. 2007; Wilkinson et al. 2007).
Supplementary Information
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