Congratulations to the 2014 JLTF winner Daniel Bateman, Macquarie University, for his project "Predator vs. facilitator: trophic impact of the invasive European shore crab, Carcinus maenus, in southeast Australian estuaries."
Ecosystem engineers are organisms that alter environmental conditions with their structures or living processes, resulting in greater community abundance and diversity in engineered habitats than non-engineered habitats. However, these habitat modifications have been shown to be spatially variable depending on the traits of the engineer. Engineer traits are influenced by abiotic disturbances such as storms, and/or biotic disturbances such as predation, and the degree to which they modify habitats can be subject to threshold levels. Habitat-forming bivalves engineer ecosystems by (1) attenuating currents, (2) reducing intertidal temperatures and desiccation stress, (3) providing hard substrate and interstitial spaces that provide habitat, and (4) producing faeces and psuedofaeces that provide food for epi- and infaunal species, resulting in richer and more diverse communities of associated invertebrates within bivalve patches than outside of bivalve patches. One such bivalve is Xenostrobus securis, an Australian native ecosystem engineer that is invasive in Europe. In its invasive European range, it is preyed upon by Carcinus maenas, a crab that is native there, but is, by contrast, invasive in Australia. This predation may alter the density and structure of the beds formed by the mussel, thereby altering the engineered habitat. My study examines whether Carcinus-induced alterations of X. securis density and population structure traits result in changes to the community of invertebrates inhabiting the mussels and whether this modification may be subject to threshold levels.
Daniel will be given his award at the 2014 ESA conference in Alice Springs, and will present a special seminar on this project at the 2015 ESA conference in Adelaide.
The judges (David Gillieson, Caragh Threlfall and Angela Moles) also gave two “highly commended” awards:
- Miles Keighley “Assessing meta-population connectivity through cultural diversity in the Australian palm cockatoo”
- Robyn Shaw “Halting Australia’s mammal declines: a demographic, ecological and genetic approach to fire response in native mammals”.
Congratulations to all of our winners!