Research Profile | Lucinda Rosheuvel | Marine Science & Climate Change

"Increased knowledge and appreciation of nature will help in the preservation of these ecosystems."
13th October 2021
Lucinda Rosheuvel, one of our Master in Marine Science and Climate Change students, spoke to us about her research project, which provides insight into the community structure of ‘the Ark’, an artificial reef (AR) in Gibraltar.

Describe your MSc project?

My research report gives insight into the community structure of an artificial reef (AR) in Gibraltar, named ‘the Ark’ and the conditions that are relevant influencing factors of success in performance. The usage of ARs as a marine management tool is worldwide established. Purposes of usage vary from tourism; scuba diving or snorkelling, fishing; commercial or recreational, nature conservation; protection of shorelines, fish stock rehabilitation, biodiversity enhancement, habitat restoration and science. The field research results supported by the studied literature suggests that spatial orientation and structural complexity are relevant factors influencing the success of the Ark. Quantitative and qualitative collected field data yields a total of 74 different taxa habiting this particular AR in 2021.
These numbers indicate a biodiverse reef in terms of species that might be interesting from a socio-economic perspective and a variety of habitat-building organisms that also host other marine life. The studied literature points out that non-adequate management in terms of lack of ownership and responsibility, insufficient monitoring and the choice of unfavourable materials, location or other environmental factors can be causes of failure in ARs’ performance. The project shows the vision on management of ARs by approaching ARs as miniature ecosystems on themselves.

What type of research has it involved and what skills have you learned?

The research is built up as qualitative and quantitative field research with the usage of video and photo material that was personally collected while scuba diving (in a non-destructive way). An extensive literature review has been done as part of the preparation phase and to help to answer the research question of what are influencing factors on the performance of ARs. Analyses on taxonomic species level were carried out in order to gain insight into the species abundance, richness and composition of this particular artificial reef. To determine whether there has been a change in biodiversity over the last +/- 10-15 years, I attempted to collect video and photo footage of divers as citizen science data. Species identification was one of the research elements that fascinated me the most. I have also gained much more knowledge on ecosystem functioning, in particular the contribution of habitat-building species.

Were there any partners/stakeholders on your project?

The Department of Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage (DESCCH) is an important stakeholder and partner. The department is involved in artificial reef deployment, therefore insights from this particular research might be of use in creating local policies for AR deployment and setting up quantitative biodiversity monitoring programs. Also, data collection and storage in a uniform database framework might help to gain a better understanding of the biodiversity on ARs. Another research partner is the Gibraltar Sub Aqua Association (GSAA). The research might be insightful for the local dive community. Increased awareness of marine ecosystem functioning and associated derived services might lead to increased engagement and potentially marine citizenship; The local diving community could act as a policy channel to deliver governmental aims of a healthy marine environment.

Why should the public know about this topic?

Ecological knowledge on the community structure of artificial reefs can potentially help the public to gain a better understanding of marine ecosystem functioning and associated derived services. This can lead to increased awareness and engagement regarding the marine environment. Increased knowledge and appreciation of nature will help in the preservation of these ecosystems, by decreasing anthropogenic pressures as for example littering or causing physical damage while diving around ARs. Preserving visual footage and converting it into quantifiable data collected in a database can be of use in a more general way to conserve local knowledge for future generations. Also, learning more about AR communities might lead to a new vision on some inhabiting organisms that might be overlooked or not considered as important before, while they do have a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balanced ecosystem.

What is the wider impact of your research?

Systematic information on the reef’s community structure and monitoring potential changes throughout time may lead to potential conservation handles in the long term. Developing a uniform way of data collection and storage can be used to collect data on other local ARs and can form a base for ongoing monitor programs. In a changing climate, monitoring programs seem to be an essential part of marine management methods to conserve coastal ecosystems. In addition, current policies regarding the development and deployment of AR programs in Gibraltar could be reviewed and updated with the help of this research report. The report gives a vision on the usage of materials, ecological engineering and MPA management which can lead to a new perspective on the ongoing AR program in Gibraltar.
  • MSc

    Master in Marine Science & Climate Change

    Designed and delivered by expert academics and scientists, this full or part-time interdisciplinary programme blends theoretical study with practical, field-based work. You will cover specialist subject areas and gain the skills required to tackle the complex issues associated with the sustainable development of marine ecosystems.[...]

    1 Year

    No Placement option

    Full Time

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