ECOS: New tools to evaluate the ecological status of rocky shores and its relationship with ecosystem services
Coastal systems suffer the effects of multiple anthropogenic stressors with consequences for human goods. Therefore, there is a need for useful tools to evaluate the ecological status of marine systems in order to adopt effective conservation strategies. For this aim, the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis was selected as model species because it is an engineer species that provides many ecosystem services such as food or habitat. This proposal will explore effects of anthropogenic stressors: pollution, trampling and harvesting on mussel attributes (density, size, biomass, condition index) and on their associated biodiversity in the rocky intertidal. For pollution, an observational approach will be used, in which reference and polluted shores will be defined in basis on previous experience of the team. Mussel attributes and biodiversity will be compared between polluted and reference shores. Nutrients, metals and PAHs will be measured in coastal water. The use of mussels as pollution sentinel will be evaluated measuring pollutant content in their tissues and potential risk to human consumption will be also assessed. Trampling and harvesting effects on mussel attributes and biodiversity will be evaluated using field manipulative experiments, in which these stressors will be simulated and compared to controls (without stressors). Results about effects of these stressors will be integrated in biological indexes, based on the biodiversity associated with mussel beds under different disturbance kinds to make the scientific knowledge accessible to managers. In this way, these indexes will be useful to define the ecological status of rocky shores. Finally, the influence of ecological health of rocky shores on ecosystem services provided by this mussel species will be evaluated with monetary and non-monetary methods. Therefore, this proposal will contribute to elucidate effects of anthropogenic stressors on rocky shores and it will improve our knowledge for adopting efficient conservation and management strategies, including new tools to define the ecological status of these habitats. The consequences of rocky shore health on the delivery of ecosystem services provided by them will be also evaluated. This is an innovative proposal that combines applied and basic research. On the long term, this proposal will help managers to take effective decisions to minimise effects of anthropogenic stressors considering their impact in human wellbeing.
The interdisciplinary team includes researchers with skills in marine science, invertebrate taxonomy, analytical chemistry and validation of ecosystem services. Specifically, the team has wide experience in fieldwork, experimental ecology and anthropogenic stressor effects, which will be crucial for the proposal success. The work will be done in close collaboration among members from CIIMAR and UAM (Spain). The project will also benefit from one consultant from UVIGO (Spain) with large experience in marine biodiversity.