Rethinking the role of artificial structures in a changing climate: a new management approach

Dr Mariana Mayer-pinto1, Dr Katherine Dafforn2, Professor  Emma Johnston1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 3University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Urbanised systems across the globe are under growing pressure from local and global stressors as pollution and climate change. Although the rapidly growing coastal human footprint is a large part of the problem, there is great opportunity to improve the resilience of coastal biodiversity under a changing climate via creative changes to the engineering design of human infrastructure. This requires an ecology-based approach that incorporates our understanding of how systems withstand (resistance) or recover (resilience) from impacts. Although adaptive building has generated innovative designs for terrestrial urban developments and is an emergent management approach in marine systems, such designs are yet to account for changes in species patterns, interactions or preferences. Rapidly changing environmental conditions now mean that ‘local biodiversity’ includes a combination of some species that will adapt, some that will move or have just arrived, and some that will become locally extinct, with clear ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Moreover, the ecosystem dynamics of any given local area are changing in response to new environmental conditions such as increased temperature, acidity and modified ocean currents. In addition, such drivers apply pressure differentially at local (individual or population level) and global (biogeographic) scales. We explain how climate effects in urbanised coastal areas could be mitigated with latitude-specific strategies that prioritise physical interventions in the tropics and biological interventions in higher latitudes. By adopting this adaptive building strategy that accounts for future climate conditions, we can engineer resilience, translating ecological theory into practical application and driving effective, forward-looking conservation strategies.


Mariana is a Scientia Fellow at the University of New South Wales. Her research is focused on human impacts (priority pollutants, urbanization) in marine ecosystems. By combining ecological theory and innovative experimental approaches, her research has generated new insight critical to inform the successful conservation and management of coastal systems. Recently, her primary focus has been solutions-based research, i.e. the use of sound science to ameliorate the impacts of pertinent and pressing stressors on ecosystems.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

© 2015 - 2021 SPECIES ON THE MOVE