Landscape or artificially enhance the seabed (natural habitats)

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    50%
  • Certainty
    35%
  • Harms
    5%

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three studies examined the effects of landscaping or artificially enhancing the seabed on subtidal benthic invertebrates. One study was in the North Sea (UK), one in the Westerschelde estuary (Netherlands), and one in the Persian Gulf (Kuwait).

 

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (3 STUDIES)

  • Overall community composition (2 studies): One controlled, before-and after study in the North Sea found that following addition of gravels, invertebrate community composition became more similar to natural seabed communities. One before-and-after, site comparison study in the Westerschelde estuary found no change in invertebrate community composition following addition of sedimentary dredge material.
  • Overall richness/diversity (3 studies): One controlled, before-and after study in the North Sea and one site comparison study in the Persian Gulf found that invertebrate species richness increased following addition of gravels or coral and limestone rubbles, and one also found that richness became similar to natural seabed. One before-and-after, site comparison study in the Westerschelde estuary found no change in species richness following addition of sedimentary dredged material.

POPULATION RESPONSE (3 STUDIES)

  • Overall abundance (3 studies): One controlled, before-and after study in the North Sea and one site comparison study in the Persian Gulf found that invertebrate abundance and biomass increased following addition of gravels or coral and limestone rubbles, and one also found that abundance became similar to natural seabed. One before-and-after, site comparison study in the Westerschelde estuary found no change in invertebrate abundance and biomass following addition of sedimentary dredge material.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A controlled, before-and-after study in 2005–2007 in a sandy seabed area in the southern North Sea, UK (Cooper et al. 2011) found that depositing gravels to recreate natural habitat after ceasing aggregate extraction changed invertebrate community composition and increased species richness, abundance and biomass, after 12 months. Community composition became less similar to that of a site without gravel and more similar to that of a natural site (similarity with site without gravel presented as graphical analyses; similarity with natural site community increased from 14% to 28%). Invertebrate species richness increased from 46/m2 before gravel deposition to 118/m2 after 12 months. There were also increases in invertebrate abundance (before: 222; after: 3,081 individuals/m2) and biomass (before: 0.6; after: 7.5 g/m2). In May 2005, July 2005, July 2006 and May 2007, invertebrates were surveyed at three sites at 22–33 m depths. Two sites were historically subjected to aggregate extraction (1996–2000), of which one was added 4,444 m3 of gravels in July 2005 and the other left without gravel. The third site was natural (never subjected to aggregate extraction). Ten samples/site/survey were collected using sediment grabs (0.1 m2). Invertebrates (>0.5 mm) were dried, weighed, and counted.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after, site comparison study in 2004–2009 of two sites in one sandy seabed area in the Westerschelde estuary, southwestern Netherlands (van der Wal et al. 2011) found that disposing of dredge material in a shallow subtidal zone to enhance natural habitat did not affect invertebrate community composition, nor promote species richness, abundance, or biomass after up to five years. Invertebrate community composition did not change over time and remained different to that of the natural site (before: 65%; after: 31% similarity). After five years, average species richness (1.8 species/sample), abundance (data not reported) and biomass (5.4 mg/m2) remained similar to pre-disposal values (species: 1.9; biomass: 7.2) and to values found at a nearby natural site (species: 1.7–1.8; biomass: 6.2–6.8). Dredged sand (500,000 m3) was disposed at one site in November–December 2004. A second site (2 km away) was left natural. Yearly in spring and autumn between 2004 and 2009, three sediment cores (30 cm depth, 8 cm diameter) were taken (then pooled) at each of twenty locations/site. Invertebrates (> 1mm) were identified, counted, and dry-weighed.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A site comparison study in 2004–2011 in one soft seabed area in the Persian Gulf, southern Kuwait (Jones & Nithyanandan 2013), found that seabed sites artificially enhanced by adding broken coral limestone rubble developed similar invertebrate species richness and abundance compared to natural sites, within two to six years. Results were not tested for statistical significance. Within two to six years, invertebrate species richness appeared similar in artificially enhanced (38.3–129 species/site) and natural site (66 species/site), and within one to two years abundance appeared higher in artificially enhanced (206–19,404 individual/m3) than natural sites (2,263 individual/m3). Following the construction of Sabah Al-Ahmad Sea City, waterways were gradually opened to the sea between 2004–2011 and sections of the seabed were artificially enhanced to promote colonisation. Annually in 2004–2011, samples were collected at 3–12 enhanced sites (3–4 m depth) using a sediment grab (three grabs/site). Invertebrates (>0.5 mm) were identified and counted. Data for the natural sites were obtained from surveys of 13 sites sampled in 2002–2004 by the United Nations Claim Commission (156 surveys in total, methodology not described).

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Lemasson, A.J., Pettit, L.R., Smith, R.K. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation. Pages 635-732 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation
Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation

Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation - Published 2020

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 18

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.


Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust