Shipbuilding Docks as Experimental Systems for Realistic Assessments of Anthropogenic Stressors on Marine Organisms

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Abstract

Empirical investigations of the impacts of anthropogenic stressors on marine organisms are typically performed under controlled laboratory conditions, onshore mesocosms, or via offshore experiments with realistic (but uncontrolled) environmental variation. These approaches have merits, but onshore setups are generally small sized and fail to recreate natural stressor fields, whereas offshore studies are often compromised by confounding factors. We suggest the use of flooded shipbuilding docks to allow studying realistic exposure to stressors and their impacts on the intra- and interspecific responses of animals. Shipbuilding docks permit the careful study of groups of known animals, including the evaluation of their behavioral interactions, while enabling full control of the stressor and many environmental conditions. We propose that this approach could be used for assessing the impacts of prominent anthropogenic stressors, including chemicals, ocean warming, and sound. Results from shipbuilding-dock studies could allow improved parameterization of predictive models relating to the environmental risks and population consequences of anthropogenic stressors.

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