E&E Webinar: Marine Threats

Invited Panel: John Morrongiello and Jennie Mallela


Urban marine ecosystems: impacts and potential solutions
Mariana Mayer Pinto (University of New South Wales)

Human activities have profoundly altered marine habitats worldwide through a wide range of activities, causing declines in biodiversity and changing ecosystem functioning. In this talk, I'll discuss the impacts of construction and contamination on marine assemblages and habitats around urban centres. I'll also discuss how management interventions, such as “eco-engineering”, have the potential to minimise some of these impacts and maximise benefits for coastal dwellers. The practice of eco-engineering is driving innovative strategies to manage marine infrastructure and can aid in the rehabilitation of degraded habitats.

Environmental changes in the sea: physiological impacts and potential coping mechanisms
Suzanne Mills (CRIOBE - French Polynesia)

Environmental changes, including anthropogenic disturbances, have destabilised many of the world’s ecosystems and we need to understand how species are impacted and whether they are able to cope with these changes. Organisms may adapt/cope by 1) selection, 2) altering the dispersive potential of offspring to track favorable environments, 3) adjusting their phenotype and/or 4) populations may cope through recruitment from refuge populations.

First, understanding the influence of the parental environment, mediated by parents, on offspring dispersal traits is still a major challenge in the marine realm. Second, phenotypic plasticity is widespread, but the underlying mechanisms remain elusive, however, the neuroendocrine system is a forerunner. Activation of an individual’s stress response modifies physiological, behavioural and cellular traits allowing individuals to phenotypically adjust and survive environmental changes, but how individual variation of the stress response translates into fitness is not known. Finally, deep reefs are hypothesized to act as refugia for shallower and more impacted population, but more data is needed.   

In this talk, I will focus on an iconic coral reef organism, the anemonefish, to determine the impacts of environmental change on whole-organism performance and ultimate responses (life-history traits). Then I will discuss the potential of three different mechanisms to cope with anthropogenic changes: habitat tracking through larval dispersal, phenotypic tracking mediated by the stress response and deep reefs as refuges.