Biodiversity & Conservation

Ecosystem Structure and Function

There is an increasing need to understand, and hence manage, ecosystems as a whole rather than just species or small units of habitat. This is the underlying principle of the 'ecosystem approach'.

In order the manage ecosystems as a whole, we need to understand the role of structural features; the interaction of physical, chemical and biotic processes that shape functioning, and the importance of biological diversity in the above (Hiscock et al. 2006). In doing so, we gain a better understanding of the 'ecosystem services' provided by the marine environment and their importance to the global ecosystem, of which mankind is a part.

Hiscock et al. (2006) identified the structural and functional processes, and hence services, provided by several marine habitats (or marine landscapes). These 'dossiers' of marine ecosystem structure and function are provided below.

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Hiscock, K., Marshall, C., Sewell, J. & Hawkins, S.J., 2006. The structure and functioning of marine ecosystems: an environmental protection and management perspective. Report to English Nature from the Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN). Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the UK . [ English Nature Research Reports , ENRR No. 699.] . [View final report 4.5 Mb]