Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

The resilience of ecosystem engineers

Ecosystem engineers are organism that creates, significantly modifies, maintains or destroys a habitat. These organisms can have a large impact on the species richness and landscape-level heterogeneity of an area. As a result, ecosystem engineers are important for maintaining the health and stability of the environment they are living in.  At NIOZ we study the resilience of foundation ecosystem engineers to climate change & anthropogenic stressors . 

A healthy seagrass ecosystem depends on healthy neighbours.  Photo: Israel Moran

Unique tropical ecosystems

Tropical regions harbor unique ecosystems hosting a great biodiversity. Many of these ecosystems are in essence shaped by a number of foundation ecosystem engineers, that modify the physical environment and cerate the habitat for so many other species to live in. If those ecosystem engineering species would be lost, the whole ecosystem would collapse. Hence it is of utmost importance to understand the resilience of these foundation ecosystem engineers, like mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and corals. We study the resilience in relation to climate change (e.g., sea level rise, storminess, acidification), anthropogenic stressors (e.g., eutrophication, pollutants, turbidity) and ecosystem management (e.g., protection of specific ‘popular’ species).

NIOZ field flumes

For example, the effect of storminess as well as the reintroduction of grazing turtles on has been studied using unique field flumes (James et al. 2020 - ecosystems), developed by NIOZ