Marine Natural History

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The coastlines of the world are naturally harsh environments that undergo continual change; those of the Irish Sea are equally dynamic as other sites around the world. As the transitional zone between land and sea, they are directly affected by both terrestrial and marine variables: anthropogenic development, agricultural runoff, rising sea levels, sea-surface temperature and wave exposure to name just a few. These areas are exposed to both terrestrial and marine stress, making them ideal locations in which to study the long term consequences of a changing climate.

[edit] What are we doing?

This project is unusual in the extent of the time and area covered: to-date there has been very few studies looking at changing habitats over several decades. We aim to collate post-war aerial imagery of the Irish Sea coastline, from organisations / individuals and we will supplement this database with modern imagery from our purpose built aerial vehicle (see our MikroKopter Hexa XL). This database will allow us to examine changes in the spatial distribution of marine intertidal habitats over several decades. Once we have determined community changes, we will interpret them by looking at various physical and biological data (anthropogenic development, wave exposure, temperature, rainfall and faunal abundance), collected over the same time period, in an attempt to establish the main driving forces of habitat change within this region.

It is hypothesised that the change in coverage of intertidal habitats, and their height on the shore, will be mostly driven by cyclic variability in wave exposure: a physical consequence of large scale climatic forcing such as the Northern Atlantic Oscillation or parameters influenced by marine anthropogenic developments such as alteration to sediment supply or wave exposure that occurs due to sea defence construction. The development of artificial coastal infrastructure is accelerating with increasing demand for commercial, residential and tourist activities. In addition, it is hypothesised that the cover of biotope forming communities will increase, regardless of wave exposure, as a result of a trend in warmer winters allowing increased survival of juvenile invertebrate grazers.

Ultimately this PhD will provide answers to what is driving coastal habitat change around the Irish Sea, in addition to an expansive database useable by academia, government and industry in the future. Our database will contain a temporal series of aerial imagery, in association with several physical and biological datasets, at sites that will be developed over the coming years. This is an exciting opportunity for you, the stakeholder, to shape this project: to suggest sites of interest in terms of habitat diversity, industrial development, future planning proposals/EIAs; to suggest habitats of interest in terms of energy reduction, aesthetic or conservation value, etc.

[edit] For further information contact

Laura Bush,
School of Ocean Sciences,
University of Wales Bangor,
Menai Bridge,
Anglesey,
LL59 5AB,

ospe25@bangor.ac.uk

Laura was awarded the Cemyln Jones Studentship in 2011, funded by the Cemlyn Jones Trust: A Trust with an established interest in the history of the Welsh coastline, and the surrounding seas.

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