SICB Annual Meeting 2010
January 3-7, 2010
Seattle, WA

Symposium: Marine Ecosystem Engineers in a Changing World: Establishing Links Across Systems

Organism-environment interactions are critical components of diverse processes including growth, reproduction, survival, physiological and morphological responses of individuals to external conditions, ecosystem function, and evolution. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of ecosystem engineers. Ecosystem engineers are organisms that define habitats by creating physical structure or by structuring the flow of materials in the system. Ecosystem engineering arises from organism-environment interactions integrated over scales from cells to populations: if an organism is the unification of complex physiological and structural systems within a single individual, then ecosystem engineers are the unification of complex physiological, structural, and ecological systems across many individuals. Understanding these processes is critical to developing ecosystem engineering as a foundational concept in biology, as well as to managing ecosystem engineers under changing environmental conditions.

Ecosystem engineers are particularly diverse in marine environments-corals, oysters, tube-building and burrowing infauna, seagrasses, mangroves, and macroalgae are all examples. All of these organisms modify their own external conditions, potentially ameliorating harsh environments. Indeed, some ecosystem engineers are adept invaders in marine systems, readily adapting to novel environments by virtue of their engineering capabilities. Other species, long recognized as ecosystem engineers, are declining despite their engineering capacities, apparently lacking the resilience to cope with stresses imposed by changing environments. Explicit comparisons across systems are needed to fully understand the physiological / architectural characteristics and organism-environment interactions that shape ecosystem engineering. To this end, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology will convene a symposium on this topic for the annual meeting in Seattle, Washington in January 2010.

Examples of marine ecosystem engineers: (A) a coral reef; photo by S. Dukachev (B) oysters, photo by S. Berke (C) the tube-building polychaete Diopatra cuprea, photo by S. Berke (D) the seagrass Zostera marina, photo by C. Faulkingham (E) red mangroves Rizophora mangle, photo by S. Berke (F) the reef-forming polychaete Sabellaria alveolata, photo by J. Reis. Photos A, D and F are available through A and F are freely available under the Creative Commons Share and Share Alike Public License 3.0; (D) has been released to the public domain by the author.

This symposium is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

The goals of this symposium will be to: (i) establish commonalities in the physiological, chemical, and physical processes that allow organisms to become ecosystem engineers, (ii) develop a consensus about how human activities and climate change influence ecosystem engineers, and (iii) begin a discussion about how to use this understanding to inform conservation biologists and resource managers of threatened or invasive ecosystem engineers.

Organized by: Sarah Berke and Linda Walters


8:00 Introduction: Sarah Berke

S10.1 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 08:05 BERKE, Sarah K: Ecosystem Engineering in the Marine Realm

S10.2 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 08:30 CALLAWAY, R.: Tube building polychaetes: from ephemeral bio-engineer to reef builder

S10.3 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 09:00 THOMSEN, M/S: Habitat cascades – a conceptual overview and estuarine examples

S10.4 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 09:30 WOODIN, S.A.*; WETHEY, D.S.; VOLKENBORN, N.: Infaunal hydraulic ecosystem engineers: the cast of characters, biogeography and possible impacts.

S10.5 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 10:30 PADILLA, D.K.: Impacts and consequences of an invasive ecosystem engineer, Crassostrea gigas

S10.6 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 11:00 LUCKENBACH, Mark W.: Fisheries collapses, restoration challenges, spread of non-natives and the emergence large-scale aquaculture: anthropogenic-driven changes to ecosystem-engineering oyster species

S10.7 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 11:30 HEIMAN, Kimberly*; MICHELI, Fiorenza: Non-native ecosystem engineer alters estuarine communities

S10.8 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 13:00 COLEMAN, Felicia C*; KOENIG, Christopher C: The effects of fishing, climate change, and other anthropogenic disturbances on red grouper and other reef fishes in the Gulf of Mexico.

S10.9 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 13:30 DONNELLY, M.J.*; WALTERS, L.J.: Ecosystem engineering in Florida’s estuaries: mangrove and oyster ecotones over a gradient of anthropogenic disturbances

S10.10 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 14:00 BREITBURG, DL: Ecosystem engineers in the plankton - habitat alteration by species from microbes to jellyfish

S10.11 Wednesday, Jan. 6, 14:30 BELL, Susan*; MEYERS, Allison; THOMAS, Florence: Lessons learned about ecosystem function and biogenic structure from experimental work on seagrasses and macroalgae