Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Abstract

Posidonia oceanica habitat is one of the most important coastal shallow water habitats in the Mediterranean region and provides highly valuable and varied ecological services such as supporting high species diversity, protecting against coastal erosion, and sequestering carbon. Posidonia oceanica habitat is declining as a result of a multitude of converging pressures, both natural and anthropogenic, in the coastal zone. The slow rate at which Posidonia oceanica meadows undergo recovery, in contrast to the rapid dynamics that bring about their decline, is consequently of great concern. The need to proactively manage this valuable resource must be met in order that the consequences of Posidonia oceanica habitat decline are not felt by social, economic and biological activities in the Mediterranean. This work identifies system dynamics modelling as an appropriate means of integrating the various factors relevant to Posidonia oceanica habitat in the coastal zone. The dissertation aims to synthesise knowledge about Posidonia oceanica habitat into a working model for a generic, hypothetical Posidonia oceanica meadow. The model’s purpose is to mimic the interactions of Posidonia oceanica growth with the algal epiphytes and algal grazers that occupy the meadow. These interactions are fundamental to the way in which Posidonia oceanica meadows contribute towards enhanced species diversity in the coastal zone. The System for Assessing Posidonia oceanica Habitat developed and described in this work is a first step towards a model capable of revealing the natural properties of P. oceanica habitat. The System for Assessing Posidonia oceanica Habitat is also described and validated fit for purpose in this dissertation. The System for Assessing Posidonia oceanica Habitat fulfils important purposes such as synthesising various data types into a logically consistent and defendable structure, and simulating responses typical of natural Posidonia oceanica habitat. The System for Assessing Posidonia oceanica Habitat may be improved and adapted, by future research efforts, to a tool that may be used to complement coastal management and decision making. Among the main suggestions made to direct future research efforts are: altering the time scale from a yearly to monthly or even daily time unit; including nutrient, water movement and temperature variables and dynamics; and modelling below ground, as well as above ground biomass compartments for Posidonia oceanica. Furthermore, future research work should adapt this model to encompass broad-scale, human-related dynamics in order to confirm its use in informing coastal management decisions.

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