Ecological engineering of marine infrastructure for biosecurity

About ecological engineering

Ecological (eco-) engineering incorporates ecological principles into the design of infrastructure to mitigate or even reverse ecological impacts. Eco-engineering uses innovative ideas and technologies to construct or modify artificial structures to facilitate development of desired marine communities. This concept aims to deliver a multifunctional approach by providing both the intended engineering purpose, and additional ecosystem services, such as supporting native biodiversity and limiting settlement by marine pests.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has funded a three-year research program lead by Macquarie University to assess the effectiveness of ecological engineering principles in preventing or reducing colonisation of marine pests on marine infrastructure.

Phase one (2020)

The phase one project used a systematic literature review to identify knowledge gaps and potential applications of eco-engineering design factors to reduce the abundance of marine pests on artificial structures. The gaps identified in the review led to an experiment that was conducted in three ports in Australia. The experiment focused on examining the effect that differences on surface brightness and microtexture had on the recruitment of native and marine pest species to artificial structures.

Phase two (2021)

The phase two project aimed to fill selected knowledge gaps identified in phase one, specifically on the effects of material composition and light availability on the recruitment of native and marine pest species to artificial structures. The research identified that increasing light availability promoted macroalgae dominated communities that reduced the abundance of invertebrate marine pests.

Phase three (2023)

The phase three project provided further evidence that increasing light availability on artificial structures can enhance the growth of macroalgae and reduce or prevent the colonisation of invertebrate marine pests. The project also assessed port locations around Australia where light-transmissive eco-engineering designs could be used to increase the growth of algae dominated communities to reduce the biosecurity risk from sessile marine pest invertebrates.

This project was funded by the Biosecurity Innovation Program.

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