In some situations, it may be desirable for coastal artificial structures to feature biofouling assemblages – but they need to contain the ‘right’ organisms. The expansion of many coastal urban centres has been associated with local declines in valued native species including kaimoana (seafood) gathered by Māori. Enhancing native species on coastal artificial structures can have two desirable outcomes. First, such populations can have a ‘sanctuary effect’ and help sustain regional populations where traditional gathering takes place. Second, if native organisms establish themselves on artificial structures first, it makes these structures more resistant to invasion by NIS.
Using approaches integrating marine ecology, Mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) and materials science, we will develop novel artificial substrates (i.e., types of surfaces) aimed at enhancing the settlement and retention of native green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus, kutai) on artificial infrastructure. A first step in this research involves understanding the habitat properties of healthy and established native mussel beds. Working with local kaitiaki (guardians of the sea) and using state of the art 3D-scanning and printing approaches and laboratory and field-based experiments, we will determine the physical and biogenic habitat features that favour mussel settlement and population development. We will then incorporate these properties into prototype artificial habitats and examine their ability to attract or retain larval and juvenile mussels. Using cutting-edge approaches in materials science and chemistry and an iterative engineering process, we will strive to develop substrates and techniques for maximising the abundance of native mussels on coastal infrastructure.
The research activities across the PROTECT theme as described above will be carried out in close collaboration with Patuharakeke Te Iwi Trust and the programme’s regulatory (Northland, Auckland and Marlborough councils, Ministry for Primary Industries) and industry (Bellingham Marine, Akzo Nobel) end-user partners. Surveys, R&D trials and field experiments for this theme will take place around Northland, Waitemata Harbour and the Top of the South region.