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Seawalls as Stepping Stones

Human impacts on coastal ecosystems include both easy to observe physical changes such as coastal development and armoring, as well as harder to observe disruptions to natural processes such as ocean temperature and circulation, and dispersal of organisms.

A recent paper co-authored by MSC researcher Francis Choi and Professor Brian Helmuth is the result of an ongoing collaboration with colleagues in China, and explores the combined impacts of coastal armoring, warming temperatures, and shifts in ocean currents on the distribution of coastal invertebrates.

The results, recently published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, suggest that by serving as “stepping stones”, artificial seawalls may be increasing dispersal and range expansion of marine species and facilitating the breakdown of traditional biogeographic boundaries in China.

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