Foresight Workshop

Developing technology and methods for the precise investigation of marine animal forest 3D-structural complexity

A previous EuroMarine working group ANFORE noted how climate change and human pressure on marine environments are threatening a large number of species including those forming the “animal forests”. These benthic communities are dominated by sessile suspension feeder organisms such as cnidarians, sponges and bivalves, ecosystem engineers thriving both in tropical and temperate seas and at a wide depth range.

Emergent impacts on coastal areas:

Marine coastal areas host highly productive ecosystems that are threatened by the high rate of urban development in these areas and associated stressors affecting ecosystem processes. An integrated and effective assessment of the state of marine coastal ecosystems must rely on the knowledge of all human pressures at different levels of biological organization. This includes microbiomes, which have been re-evaluated as a ‘bank of hidden biodiversity’, with fundamental, albeit still unknown, functional potential capable of opening up new frontiers in scientific knowledge.

From species connectivity to functional connectivity

Research on ecosystem connectivity has traditionally relied on species dispersal (structural connectivity), although this is only one of the many uses of space that allow species to connect different environments. Such long-term movements, typically occurring once along the species life-cycle, relate mostly to population connectivity, and are generally used to describe the spatial structure of populations and, in few cases, their demography.

Modelling different components of marine plankton biodiversity

Biodiversity is an enigmatic yet important factor for the accuracy of ecosystem modelling. The inclusion of living organisms is necessary for models that predict carbon usage and circulation, while capturing complex networks of feeding interactions across trophic levels is important for describing the functioning of ecosystems and their potential response to climate change. Links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are examined in biodiversity ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiments, yet upscaling their predictions to natural communities is not straightforward.

Modelling and prediction of harmful algal blooms, from event responses to multi - decadal projections

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are proliferations of certain photosynthetic organisms (including unicellular phytoplankton and phytobenthos, macroalgae, cyanobacteria, and particular ciliates) that can cause massive fish kills, produce toxins that bioaccumulate in seafood, and/or cause ecological damage through the development of hypoxia/anoxia and other habitat alterations.

Multi-Modelled Marine Ecosystems

An Ecosystem Approach to marine management is advocated globally by international bodies including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and the European Union. In response, a plethora of computer-driven marine ecosystem models have been developed worldwide. The existence of multiple models has been recognized as an asset, notably due to higher confidence in convergent model results and a better cross-disciplinary understanding of model functioning in general.

Seaweed aquaculture: A promising tool for the restoration and sustainable development of coastal environments or an expensive end-of-pipe technology?

While researchers have recently explored the environmental effects of important seaweed monocultures and the use of seaweeds in integrated marine aquaculture on a local scale, there is still much uncertainty about the broader consequences for marine biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles. Important biogeochemical parameters in seaweed aquaculture modeling studies, such as oxygen, are still missing. The balance between nutrient uptake and farm yield – as well as maximum yield of desired constituents and seaweed mortality – is sensitive.