Kay Vopel, Hilke Giles,, and John Zeldis have combined three existing tools to come up with a new way of assessing change in coastal ecosystems.
Sediments in coastal ecosystems have the job of breaking down organic matter. In a complex system of microbial activities and chemical reactions, organic matter is transformed to inorganic forms through a variety of pathways. Some of these paths return dissolved nutrients for the growth of algae living on the sediment or in the water; others produce ‘unwanted’ gases, such as the odorous hydrogen sulphide and methane. Bacteria play the most important part in the breakdown of organic matter but other organisms, such as worms, crustaceans, and larger bottom-dwelling creatures, also have important roles.