Background: Bivalve reefs are important for biodiversity and provide multiple ecosystem services including the enhanced production of economically important crustaceans and fishes. Globally, enormous investment has been made in restoring reefs such as those associated with oysters. Far less is known about the ecological importance of horse mussel (Modiolus modiolus) reefs and throughout their range these mussels have been severely degraded and even locally extirpated. The loss is exemplified in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland where reef coverage is estimated to have been reduced by >90% between 1975 to 2009. Strangford Lough, and specifically Modiolus reefs, is protected under the EU Habitats Directive (SAC; UK0016618) and is a Marine Conservation Zone (NI Marine Act 2013). Restoring a viable reef is not straightforward and can be affected by multiple factors. Testing which methods should be used to restore biogenic reefs is necessary to ensure the resources invested are used to the utmost benefit and to maximize the provision of ecosystem services.
General objectives: This project will test the suitability of large-scale translocation of Modiolus from the Irish Sea into Strangford Lough and aims to identify; (i) optimal density of mussels and (ii) optimal size of artificially created reefs, to maximize restoration success accounting for habitat quality and associated ecosystem functioning and (iii) improve monitoring practices of biogenic reefs.
This 3-year PhD is aligned with the objectives of the current Modiolus Restoration Research Group (MRRG) Project (http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/ModiolusRestorationResearchGroup/). The project will be based at Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (www.quercus.ac.uk) in the School of Biological Sciences and will utilise the Queen’s University Belfast’s Marine Laboratory at Portaferry on Strangford Lough. Owing to the subtidal nature of the project, candidates should possess at least a basic SCUBA qualification and be willing to train to HSE Scientific Diver standard (www.nfsd.org.uk).
This studentship attracts an annual stipend of £13,771 plus fees (full time) and is open to any suitably qualified candidate (a first degree in a suitable subject at least at an upper second class) from the UK or other EU countries. Applicants whose first language is not English must provide documentary evidence that they can meet the required standard of English.
It is anticipated that this studentships will begin in the summer of 2014.
This project is funded by Northern Ireland Marine Division, Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland).