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Creating patches of comprehension and filling gaps in knowledge: physical modelling contributions to joined-up understanding of heterogeneous eco-scapes

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Published
Publication date19/12/2016
Original languageEnglish
Event11th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics - Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 7/02/201612/02/2016

Conference

Conference11th International Symposium on Ecohydraulics
Abbreviated title11th ISE
CountryAustralia
CityMelbourne
Period7/02/1612/02/16

Abstract

Most “eco-scapes” (by which I mean spatial distributions of ecosystems), including those in aquatic environments, are heterogeneous, a condition which can be indicative of a healthy, resilient diversity of habitats, or of fragmentation, stress and decay. This heterogeneity is often conceptualised in terms of “patches” and “gaps”, amongst other spatial elements. Interactions between the ambient hydrodynamics and patches and gaps in organism distributions are therefore central to determining ecosystems’ structure, functioning, possible future trajectories and responses to anthropogenic interventions. This paper will review work carried out over the past few years aimed at understanding these interactions and their implications, which has used physical modelling as its primary modus operandi. The key findings of this work are that the nature and density of gap-patch boundaries, and the relative locations of patches and patch-wakes, are of overriding importance in determining how the organisms and hydrodynamics influence each other and the morphological, sedimentary and biogeochemical aspects of their wider environments. This paper discusses these issues using examples from studies of two keystone coastal organisms, seagrasses and mussels, and suggests ways in which research in this area might best try to proceed.