Biogenic reefs really evoke the imagination of both the general public and research scientists. Organisms that form reef interact with and influence the surrounding water flow, relying upon modified hydrodynamics for a variety of ecological processes including the supply of particulate matter, gas exchange and the recruitment of conspecifics. Their structures can also enhance the fitness of other species by elevating food supplies and providing refuge, which in turn generally leads to an elevated diversity in an area. Unfortunately, generalisations of how biogenic structures contribute to a variety of ecosystem processes are widespread throughout scientific and ecological management literature: Foremost are observations that biogenic structures and habitat heterogeneity stimulates enhanced biodiversity. However, only little is really known about reefs and the organisms that form biogenic structures. Currently, this lack of knowledge leads to uncertainty in the management of reef species, limiting the ability of scientists, conservationists and managers to effectively conserve structure-forming organisms and the habitats that they often create.
 What are we doing in Bangor?
We’re trying to address key questions in temperate reef ecology such as: How do reefs develop from individual organisms and how are they sustained over time? Some processes have received significant research effort, such as elevated local biodiversity in a range of structural habitats. But, it is often overlooked that elevated biodiversity is a result of more fundamental processes such as the provision of space and the environmental modification by the structure forming organism themselves. Individual- and population-level traits such as density and elevation drive the intensity of the interaction with flow. This has implications for other processes such as particle entrainment, dissolved nutrient replenishment and residence times of waste or larvae. We use a range of approaches, ranging from observation to experimentation and modelling to better understand how and why reefs form and the effect they have on the local environment.
Dr Andrew Davies,
School of Ocean Sciences.
ossa06 _at___ bangor.ac.uk