SeArc has extensive experience in consulting, executing and monitoring a wide variety of environmental services:
SeArc provides ecological consulting in designing or modifying coastal/marine man-made structures in a way that will increase their ecological value and their biological productivity, while reducing their impact on the natural surroundings. For example:
1) Increasing structural complexity using add-ons (e.g., small 3D structures) providing specific ecological services such as nursing grounds, shelter, food resources etc.
2) Applying subtle structural changes to urban marine structures for reconstructing lost/degaraded habitats for species with conservation value.
3) Applying active restoration techniques on urban marine environments, i.e., transplantation or seeding of invertebrates and algae, for biological enhancement .
4) Advising managers/operators how to manage the biological components on their infrastructures in a way that reduces the need for antifouling treatments, enable collection of species with commercial value, and reduce the need for filter cleaning in pumping operations.
SeArc team works hand in hand with land and seascape architects, engineers and designers, together creating eco-structures providing both their designated urban/industrial function and secondary ecological functions. For example:
1) “Greening” urban marine structures by adding built-in niches designed to replace missing/degraded natural habitats or to enhance target species.
2) Integrating materials/compounds that induce natural settlement of sessile organisms.
3) Designing hybrid coastal defense structures incorporating aquatic vegetation and biogenic substrates with rock/concrete armor.
4) Integrating gaps (tidal gates) to improve local environmental conditions.
Urban marine structures such as pontoons, marinas or breakwaters are usually not designed for providing ecological services or goods. Nonetheless, by identifying or creating optimal zones within such structures ,capable of supplying the specific set of environmental conditions required for enhancing a desirable suit of species, we can utilize almost any structure (on the land sea interface or even off-shore) for attracting/supporting biological resources including:
1) Species with high conservation value (e.g. corals or other habitat-forming species including canopy-forming macroalgae).
2) Managing fishery resources including mussels, crabs, and fish stocks.
3) Creating reproductive hot-spots by provider shelter designed to accommodate species specific life-history stages such as large crevices for fertile adults, or small niches for fragile juveniles.
One of the main problems associated with urban marine structures is low water quality, high turbidity and drastic changes in water parameters. SeArc aspires to minimize these by:
1) Creating marine buffer zones composed mainly of algae capable of absorbing large amounts of nutrients, and can be then utilized as fertilizes/marine compost.
2) Improving water quality by actively enhancing “bio-filter communities” composed of sessile filter-feeding macro-invertebrates.
3) Reducing nutrient load and turbidity associated with aquafarming by converting them into Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture operations, i.e., culturing more than one trophic level (herbivores, omnivores, and detritivores) thus generating less pollution.
4) Integrating subtle structural changes based upon key environmental and physical parameters that control the settlement and establishment of invasive or nuisance species for limiting their spread on urban marine habitats.
SeArc aspires to bridge the gap between development and sustainability. This demands increasing the environmental literacy among the various stakeholders of urban marine structures including management, operators, and users. SeArc achieves this goal by:
1) Taking advantage of the accessibility of urban marine structure like seawalls, piers, and breakwaters to city dwellers for creating ‘urban blue-lungs’ at the land sea interface, providing enhanced environmental services and safe access to the waterfront.
2) Integrating educational and volunteer programs to the process of managing man-made structures through site specific educational programs, organized day activities, open to the public photographic exhibits of ecologically active structures, special events and publications.
3) Involving operators and/or volunteers in monitoring programs taking place at the structure.
SeArc scientists have conducted a variety of environmental assessments in tropical and temperate environments. Assessment of natural communities is an integral part of habitat conservation planning, public lands management and environmental permitting for land development. These assessments involve classification and mapping of benthic marine components and surveys for protected species which are likely to occur. This information is then used for developing measures to minimize impacts onto sensitive natural resources during and following project construction.
High water quality is often critical for the well-being of marine flora and fauna and coastal development is frequently accompanied by deterioration in water quality. SeArc is experienced in monitoring water quality for documenting changes in ecosystem state in general as well as in response to modification of the habitat/structure (e.g., introduction of bio-filters, construction work on urban structures etc.). Water quality variables commonly measured in-situ using state-of-the-art instruments include temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, conductivity, turbidity, and transparency. A full range of laboratory for nutrients, BOD, metals, hydrocarbons, and priority pollutants is available through our independent, certified laboratories.
Sediment load and detrital pathways can have profound impacts on ecosystem functioning and health. For example, there is growing evidence that detrital material that is sloughed off the urban marine structures (such as breakwaters and piers) can cause immediate changes in productivity, nutrient cycling and detrital pathways in the adjacent soft-sediments. We are experienced in conducting sediment grain size analysis, total organic matter, chlorophyll a and well as screening of macroinvertebrates associated with sedimentary environments.
We have extensive experience in benthic ecology of various ecosystems in which we analyzed macroinvertebrate samples from over 30 discrete locations (e.g., The Indian ocean, the Chinese sea, the Caribbean. The Red Sea, the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea). We use a combination of several techniques for assessing benthic macrofauna such as underwater photography, belt transects, quadrates and collection of samples for taxonomic identification. These methods are utilized for assessing various characteristics of the benthic communities, including percent cover, density, species richness, dominance, diversity and evenness, over assorted spatial and temporal scales. Such surveys are essential for comparing benthic community structure pre- and post-habitat modification and/or between affected areas and reference sites, as well as for assessing impacts from a wide array of anthropogenic disturbances (i.e., impacts of oil and gas jetties, beach nourishment and aquaculture operations).
Conducting fish surveys allows describing the status of the fish community and its component populations, as well as helps both scientists and managers to make proper management decisions related to fisheries. During a typical survey collected fish are identified, measured, and weighed, more detailed analyses of fish populations can contain measures of rates of recruitment, growth, production and mortality. Fish surveys are normally conducted in-situ by roving divers, or, when necessary, using nettings.
Submerged aquatic vegetation is widely recognized as an important habitat and indicator of water quality in the marine environment. Due to the alarming global decline of various habitat forming algae and seaweeds, it is essential to asses the susceptibility of SAV to changes in physical and biological parameters of the environment and to understand how such changes influence the ecological functioning of these precious habitats. We carry out habitat mapping using line transects and estimate SAV density, morphology and size distribution by placing quadrates along the transects. Classification and identification is done at the lab alongside with measurement of chlorophyll and other physiological tests.