Conference: “Habitat cascade destroyed in the Kaikoura earthquake”

New Zealand Marine Science Society conference (NZMSS) 2017, University of Canterbury, New Zealand


Mads S. Thomsen, Isis Metcalfe, Alfonso Siciliano, Tommaso Alestra, Stacie Lilley, Shawn Gerrity, David R. Schiel



It is well-described how anthropogenic activities and natural disaster can destroy primary habitat-forming species, like seagrasses, corals and kelps. However, less research and conservation effort has focused on how these types of disturbances affect associated secondary habitat-formers, like epiphytes, and animals depending on biogenic habitat. In this talk we will first introduce the concept of habitat cascades with examples from New Zealand rocky shores and compare them to habitat cascades from other ecosystems. We will then show that intertidal primary (fucoid hosts) and secondary (seaweed epiphytes) habitat-formers and their inhabitants (small mobile invertebrates) have been decimated on reef along a 100km swathe of coastline that were uplifted by 1-6m by the recent 7.8mW Kaikoura earthquake. Finally, we will discuss potential cascading ecological effects, future scenarios for natural recovery and whether restoration is a viable option to speed up the recovery of habitat cascades on these degraded reefs.