At the end of the 2015 Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conference, a day was set aside for a workshop following up on the 1990 Plant–Animal Interactions meeting and its associated Systematics Association book – Plant–Animal Interactions in the Marine Benthos (John et al., 1992). Talks given throughout the 2015 conference also informed the present volume and its chapters. The 2015 workshop took a comparative approach with a series of informal presentations and discussion sessions from selected participants from around the world. The general aim was to take a regionally based view of the role of interactions in setting distribution patterns, community structure and functioning of shallow-water marine ecosystems. The coverage was predominantly coastal, down to the limit of light penetration. Most contributions were from those working on rocky intertidal and subtidal habitats, reflecting the size (and willingness to contribute) of the research community coupled with the greater tradition of experimental approaches to examine interactions on more tractable hard substrata. In addition, mangroves, biofilms and the deep sea were also considered as special systems that are ubiquitous across several oceans where significant advances have been made and, therefore, warranted inclusion. Recent advances in remotely operated vehicles, for example, have increased the scope for observation and experiment in the deep sea (Johnson et al., 2013); whereas mangroves are important ecosystem engineers which provide important ecosystem services, but are declining globally (Polidoro et al., 2010; Chee et al., 2017). Biofilms were also included as a subject given their global distribution and importance as the site of first settlement of macrobenthic organisms and as a food source for grazers (Abreu et al., 2007). While this volume does not feature any chapters specifically on artificial structures, ocean sprawl or eco-engineering, a large number of talks and posters at the conference dealt with these emerging issues, reflecting their global importance (see Firth et al., 2016; Bishop et al., 2017 and Strain et al., 2018 for reviews). A notable omission is coral reefs, which were not covered because they already have a well-established community of research workers and deserve a volume in their own right. Inevitably, there are gaps in coverage reflecting difficulties in soliciting and delivering input, especially on soft shores as well as certain geographic locations. Coverage in 1992 and 2018 is shown on the maps in Figure 1.1.