The outsized trophic footprint of marine urbanization

Authors: Martino E Malerba, Craig R White, and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Abstract

Artificial structures are proliferating along coastlines worldwide, creating new habitat for heterotrophic filter feeders. The energy demand of this heterotrophic biomass is likely to be substantial, but is largely unquantified.

Combining in situ surveys, laboratory assays, and information obtained from geographic information systems, we estimated the energy demands of sessile invertebrates found on marine artificial structures worldwide.

At least 950,000 metric tons of heterotrophic biomass are associated with commercial ports around the world, emitting over 600 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and consuming 5 million megajoules of energy per day.

We propose the concept of a trophic “footprint” of marine urbanization, in which every square meter of artificial structure can negate the primary production of up to 130 square meters of surrounding coastal waters; collectively, these structures not only act as energy sinks and carbon sources, but also potentially reduce the productivity of coastal food webs.

Citation

Malerba ME, White CR, Marshall DJ (2019) The outsized trophic footprint of marine urbanization. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment PDF 3 MB doi:10.1002/fee.2074