Coastal ecosystems are among the most productive biomes on the planet, but also among the most vulnerable. A large variety of anthropogenic impacts are threatening their integrity, and consequently, their capability to provide goods and services. Among these, eutrophication is considered one of the main stressors. Lough Hyne is a fully marine sea lough located in the south-west of Ireland. It was designated as Europe's first Marine Nature Reserve in 1981 for its extraordinary biodiversity. Unfortunately, during the last decade the benthic assemblages of the lough experienced drastic changes, probably related to eutrophication-driven processes.
The aim of my research is to investigate the effects of anthropogenic stressors on temperate subtidal benthic assemblages, with a major focus on sponges. In particular, the project aims to characterize the changes that occurred in the subtidal communities at Lough Hyne, investigate the possible causes though tolerance experiments to key stressors, assess the trophic consequences of the sponge decline and finally evaluate the potential of an active restoration action of the key structuring species.