Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto
Research Associate
Field of Research: 
Human impacts, ecosystem functioning, multiple stressors, urbanisation, eco-engineering
Contact details:
+61 2 9385 8701
Level 4 East
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052

Member of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab (AMEE)

See also Google Scholar and UNSW Research Gateway

Research & Current Projects


I am a marine ecologist with a strong background on field experiments. My research focuses on how human impacts can affect biodiversity and functions of ecosystems. I am particularly interested on how multiple anthropogenic effects, such as artificial structures and contaminants, affect ecosystem structure and functioning and the implications to the provision of services. Understanding how biodiversity and ecological processes and functions are affected by these threats is essential to be able to predict their consequences and develop sound and efficient conservation and management strategies to protect ecosystem services.



Engineering artificial habitats to enhance ecosystem services and mitigate impacts

Artificial structures have been major features of terrestrial urban landscapes for centuries and are increasingly common in aquatic environments. These structures may change biotic interactions between species by altering food-webs, facilitating the spread of non-indigenous species and increasing the accumulation of contaminants. However, there is still very little understanding of how they alter ecosystem functioning or contribute to important ecosystem services such as productivity. Similarly, the potential for designing structures to reduce their ecological footprint and maintain pivotal ecosystem functions is an emerging field. I am interested in how these structures can be designed to provide multi-functions of interests to society while having minimal impacts on the environment.

Effects of anthropogenic disturbances on ecosystem functioning

Humans depend, socially and economically, on the services and goods that ecosystems provide. Human populations have increased exponentially during the last century and the growing resources demand of an increasing population is placing increasing pressure on natural systems. Ecosystems are now subjected to threats from an array of stressors that may affect their diversity and functioning and, in most extreme cases, may cause ecosystem collapse. There is, therefore, a real and pressing need to properly manage ecosystems to maintain their sustainability and the supply of services. A comprehensive understanding of how different stressors affect ecosystem functioning is necessary to develop sound and efficient management strategies that protect services.

Contamination on marine systems

Contaminants are linked to global biodiversity declines. Changes in densities of species or other traits can cause changes across an entire assemblage via indirect effects. Therefore, contaminants can affect organisms directly, via mortality, or indirectly, via disruption of ecological processes, such as recruitment, competition or growth. Marine and estuarine systems have long been influenced by contaminants, such as metals and pesticides from industrial and agricultural activities. Understanding their effects may help predict, prevent and mitigate degradation of important marine ecosystems.



The Conversation - Our oceans are out of balance – can we learn some tips from feng shui?

The Conversation - Concrete coastlines: it’s time to tackle our marine ‘urban sprawl’

Sydney Morning HeraldIt's war down there: Sydney Harbour a marine battleground between invasive and local species


Research Students


Nina Schaefer (PhD candidate) – ‘Climate resilient eco-engineering’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).

Shinjiro Ushiama (PhD candidate) – ‘Artificial structure effects on fish and invertebrates’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).



Elisa Tan (Honours, 2014) – ‘Coastal Structures and Intertidal Microbial Communities’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).

Wills Brassil (Honours, 2014) – ‘Artificial light results in increased predation pressure on sessile invertebrate communities’ (Jointly supervised with Dr Katherine Dafforn and Professor Emma Johnston).



MSCI2001 Introductory Marine Science (Guest Lecturer)

GEOS3911 Environmental Impact Assessment (Guest Lecturer)

MSCI0501 The Marine Environment (Lecturer and Course Coordinator, 2012)

BIOS3091 Marine & Acquatic Ecology (Convenor and Lecturer, 2013; Guest Lecturer, 2014)



* = Corresponding author; underlined names of students or research associates/assistants working under my direct supervision.

Scholarly Book Chapters (2)

1. Johnston E.L. & Mayer-Pinto, M. 2015. Pollution: effects of chemical contaminants and debris. In: Marine ecosystems: Human Impacts on Biodiversity, Functioning and Services. Eds: T.P. Crowe and C.L.J. Frid. Published by Cambridge University Press.

2. Junqueira, A.O.R.; Lavrado, H.P.; Viana M.S.; Pinto, Mariana Mayer. Zoobentos de substrato consolidado. In: Maria Célia Villac; Falvio da Costa Fernandes; Silvio Jablonski; Alexandre de Carvalho Leal Neto; Bruno Henriques Coutinho. (Org.). Biota da área sob influência do Porto de Sepetiba, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Levantamento de dados pretéritos.. Brasília: Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 2004, p. 47-55.

Refereed Journal Articles (22)


1. Bolton D; Mayer-Pinto M*; Clark, GF; Dafforn, KA; Brassil WA; Becker A; Johnston, EL (2017). Coastal urban lighting has ecological consequences for multiple trophic levels under the sea. Science of the Total Environment. 576: 1-9.


2. Mayer-Pinto M*; Matias, MG; Coleman RA (2016). The interplay between habitat structure and chemical contaminants on biotic responses of benthic organisms. PeerJ 4:e1985; DOI 10.7717/peerj.1985.

3. Bishop, MJ; Mayer-Pinto, M; Airoldi, L; Firth, LB; Critchley, L; Morris, RL; Loke, LHL; Hawkins, SJ; Naylor, LA; Coleman, RA; Yin Chee, S; Dafforn, KA. (in press; accepted on 06/2016). Effects of ocean sprawl on ecological connectivity: impacts and solutions. Invited review for the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

4. Heery, EC; Bishop, MJ; Critchley, L; Bugnot, AB; Airoldi, L; Mayer-Pinto, M; Sheehan, EV; Coleman, RA; Loke, LHL; Johnston, EL; Komyakova, V; Morris, RL; Strain, EM, Naylor, LA; Dafforn, KA. (in press; accepted on 11/05/2016). Identifying the consequences of ocean sprawl for sedimentary habitats. Invited review for the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

5. Van den Brink, PJ; Choung, CB; Landis, W; Mayer-Pinto, M; Pettigrove, V; Scanes, P; Smith, R; Stauber, J (2016). New approaches to the ecological risk assessment of multiple stressors. Marine and Freshwater Research. 67(4): 429-439.


6. Mayer-Pinto M*; Johnston EL; Hutchings P; Marzinelli EM; Ahyong ST; Birch G; Booth D; Creese R; Doblin MA; Figueira W; Gribben PE; Pritchard T; Roughan M; Steinberg PD; Hedge LH (2015). Sydney Harbour: A review of anthropogenic impacts on the biodiversity and ecosystem function of one the world’s largest natural harbours. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66(12): 1088-1105.

7. Mayer-Pinto M*; Underwood AJ; Marzinelli EM (2015). The matrix influences direct and indirect effects of an anthropogenic disturbance on marine organisms. Environmental Research. 136: 15-20.

8. Mayer-Pinto M*. & Ignacio BL (2015). Effects of chemical disturbances on intertidal benthic assemblages. Science of the Total Environment. 506-506: 10-17.

9. Browne MA; Brooks P; Clough R; Fisher A; Mayer-Pinto M; Crowe TP (2015). Simulating regimes of chemical disturbance and testing impacts in the ecosystem using a novel programmable dosing-system. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12521.

10. Tan ELY; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL; Dafforn KA (2015). Differences in intertidal microbial assemblages on urban structures and natural rocky reef. Frontiers in Microbiology. 6: 1276.

11. Johnston EL; Mayer-Pinto M*; Hutchings P; Marzinelli EM; Ahyong ST; Birch G; Booth D; Creese R; Doblin MA; Figueira W; Gribben PE; Pritchard T; Roughan M; Steinberg PD; Hedge LH (2015). Sydney Harbour: What we do and don't know about this highly diverse estuary. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66(12): 1073-1087.

12. Johnston EL; Hedge LH; Mayer-Pinto M (2015). The urgent global need to understand harbor ecosystems. A short authoritative statement about harbours. Marine and Freshwater Research. 66 i-ii.

13. Johnston EL; Mayer-Pinto M; Crowe TP (2015). Chemical contaminant effects on marine ecosystem functioning. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52(1): 140-149.

14. Dafforn KA; Mayer-Pinto M; Morris RL; Waltham NJ (2015). Application of management tools to integrate ecological principles with the design of marine infrastructure. Journal of environmental management 158: 61-73.

15. Dafforn KA; Glasby TM; Airoldi L; Rivero NK; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL (2015). Marine urbanization: an ecological framework for designing multifunctional artificial structures. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 82-90.

16. Dafforn KA; Glasby TM; Airoldi L; Rivero NK; Mayer-Pinto M; Johnston EL (2015). Clarification on the applicability of systematic reviews. Reply. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(3): 129-130. 


17. Mayer-Pinto M*; Ignacio BL; Szechy MTM; Viana MS; Curbelo-Fernandez MP; Lavrado HP; Junqueira AOR; Vilanova E; Silva SHG (2012). How much is too little to detect impacts? A case study of a nuclear power plant. Plos One 7(10): e47871.

18. Marzinelli EM; Burrows MT; Jackson AJ; Mayer-Pinto M (2012). Positive and negative effects of habitat-forming algae on survival, growth and intra-specific competition of limpets. Plos One 7(12): e51601.


19. Mayer-Pinto M*; Coleman RA; Underwood AJ; Tolhurst T (2011) Effects of zinc on microalgal biofilms in intertidal and subtidal habitats. Biofouling 27(7): 721-727.

Until 2010

20. Mayer-Pinto M*; Underwood AJ; Tolhurst, T.; Coleman RA (2010) Effects of metals on benthic assemblages: what do we really know? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 391: 1-9.

21. Vilanova, EP; Mayer-Pinto, M; Curbelo-Fernandez, MP; Silva, SHG. (2004). The impact of a nuclear power plant discharge on the sponge community of a tropical bay (SE Brazil). Bollettino dei musei e degli istituti biologici dell'Universita di Genova 68: 647-654.

22. Mayer-Pinto M* & Junqueira AOR. (2003). Effects of organic pollution on the initial development of fouling communities in a tropical bay, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 46: 1495 – 1503.

23. Mayer-Pinto M*; Viana, MS; Lavrado HP; Silva TA; Silva SHG. 2000. Epibiosis on barnacles at Angra dos Reis, RJ: Eutrophication effects. Nauplius 8(1): 55-61.

24. Junqueira AOR; Falcão APC; Mayer-Pinto M; Viana MS; Silva SHG.  2000. Spatial and temporal variations on intertidal barnacle abundance in a tropical bay. Nauplius 8(2): 195-204.

Scientific Reports & Others

1. Dafforn KA; Mayer-Pinto M; Walthan N. Our oceans are out of balance – can we learn some tips from feng shui? The Conversation. Published on 7th September, 2016.

2. Dafforn KA; Johnston EL; Banks J; Mayer-Pinto M. Concrete coastlines: it’s time to tackle our marine ‘urban sprawl’. The Conversation. Published on 16th March, 2015.

3. Dafforn KA; Mayer-Pinto M; Morris RL; Walthan N (2014). National Marine Science Plan: White Paper on Green Engineering and Marine Urban Development.

4. Dafforn KA; Mayer-Pinto M; Bugnot AB; Coleman RA; Morris RL; Johnston EL. (2016) Guiding principles for marine foreshore developments. Report prepared for UrbanGrowth NSW. University of New South Wales, Sydney. pp 53.

5. Hedge LH; Johnston EL; Ahyong ST; Birch, GF; Booth DJ; Creese RG; Doblin MA; Figueira WF; Gribben PE; Hutchings PA; Mayer-Pinto M; Marzinelli EM; Pritchard TR; Roughan M; Steinberg PD. (2014) Sydney Harbour: A systematic review of the science. The Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Sydney, Australia. pp. 76