Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
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[ Overview ][ Objectives ][ Spreading Of Excellence ][ Partners ][ Associated Partners ][ Committees ][ Project Management ][ Data Management ][ Taxonomic Clearing System ][ Quality Assurance ][ Training ] [ Outreach ][ SMEs ][ Theme 1 Global Patterns ][ Theme 2 Ecosystem Functioning ][ Theme 3 Socio-economics ]

Theme 2: Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Team leaders: Carlos Duarte and David Paterson

Key Areas for Responsive Mode Actions

IDKey AreaResponsible persons
2.1Ecosystem metabolismJean-Pierre Gattuso, CNRS-LO and Carlos Duarte, UIB
2.2Food web efficiencyHarald Asmus, AWI and Arturos Razinkovas, CORPI
2.3Ecosystem stabilityLisandro Benedetti-Cecchi, UP and Tasman Crowe, UCD
2.4Key species and Functional GroupsSergej Olenin, KU and Stephen Hawkins, MBA
2.5Chemical and genetic diversity and its impact on ecosystem functioningAdrianna Ianora, SZN and Per Aberg, GU

MarBEF Partners involved in Theme 2

45 records found with search conditions : [No parameters entered]
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  • Akvaplan-niva; Biodiversity Group, more
  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar- and Marine Research (AWI), more
  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar- and Marine Research; Biololgical Station Helgoland (AWI-BAH), more
  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar- and Marine Research; Wadden Sea Station Sylt (AWI), more
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), more
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; Lowesoft Laboratory (CEFAS), more
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; Weymouth Laboratory (CEFAS), more
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; Laboratoire d'OcĂ©anographie de Villefranche (CNRS-LOV), more
  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; Station Biologique de Roscoff; Benthic Ecology Research Group (CNRS), more
  • Hellenic Centre for Marine Research; Institute of Marine Biology and Genetics; Biodiversity & Ecosystem Management Department (HCMR), more
  • Hellenic Centre for Marine Research; Institute of Marine Biology and Genetics; Genetics and Molecular Biotechnology Group (HCMR), more
  • Italian National Research Council; Istituto chimica biomoleculare (CNR-ICB), more
  • Klaipeda University; Coastal Research and Planning Institute (CORPI), more
  • Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, WarnemĂĽnde (IOW), more
  • Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM), more
  • MusĂ©um National d'Histoire Naturelle; DĂ©partement Milieux et Peuplements Aquatiques; Biology of marine organisms and ecosystems (MNHN-BOME), more
  • National Institute of Biology; Marine Biological Station Piran (NIB-MBS), more
  • National Natural History Museum Paris; Biologie des Organismes et Ecosystèmes Aquatiques (MNHN-BOREA), more
  • Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research (RIVO), more
  • Observatoire OcĂ©anologique de Banyuls-Sur-Mer; Laboratoire d'OcĂ©anographie Biologique (LOBB), more
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), more
  • Stazione Zoologica 'Anton Dohrn' di Napoli; Benthic Ecology Laboratory (SZN), more
  • Stazione Zoologica 'Anton Dohrn' di Napoli; Ecophysiology Laboratory (SZN), more
  • Technical University of Denmark; National Institute of Aquatic Resources; Department of Marine Ecology and Aquaculture (DTU-DFU), more
  • The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science; The Laboratory (SAHFOS), more
  • UniversitĂ  di Pisa; Dipartimento di Scienze dell 'Uomo e dell 'Ambiente, more
  • Universitat de les Illes Balears; Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA), more
  • Ghent University; Faculty of Sciences; Biology Department; Marine Biology Section (UGent-MARBIOL), more
  • University College Dublin; Department of Zoology (UCD), more
  • University of Algarve; Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences; Centre of Marine Sciences (UALG-CCMAR), more
  • University of Gdansk; Faculty of Biology, Geography and Oceanology; Institute of Oceanography (UG-IO-BGO), more
  • University of Gdansk; Institute of Oceanography; Department of Marine Biology and Ecology; Marine Invertebrates Ecophysiology Laboratory (UG), more
  • University of Gdansk; Institute of Oceanography; Department of Marine Biology and Ecology; Marine Plant Ecology Laboratory (UG), more
  • University of Gdansk; Institute of Oceanography; Department of Marine Biology and Ecology; Pelagic Polar and Boreal fauna Laboratory (UG), more
  • University of Gdansk; Institute of Oceanography; Department of Marine Ecosystem Functioning (UG), more
  • University of Gdansk; Institute of Oceanography; Department of Marine Ecosystem Functioning; Laboratory of Estuarine Ecology (UG), more
  • University of Gothenburg; Faculty of Science; Department of Marine Ecology, more
  • University of Porto; Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (CIMAR), more
  • University of Porto; Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research (Porto) (CIIMAR), more
  • University of Salento; Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche e Ambientali; National Interuniversity Consortium For Marine Sciences; Laboratory of Zoology and Marine Biology (UNILE-LZMB), more
  • University of Southampton; National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems (SOTON-OBE), more
  • University of Southampton; National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; School of Ocean & Earth Science (SOTON-SOES), more
  • University of St Andrews; School of Biology; Gatty Marine Laboratory; Sediment Ecology Research Group (USTAN-SERG), more
  • University of the Azores; Marine Biology (UAC), more
  • Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), more

Find people involved in:

Theme 2: Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Overall objective To generate theory, models and tests of the relationship between marine biodiversity (assessed at different levels of organization: genetic, traditional species, and functional groups) and ecosystem function through the integration of theoretical and modelling exercises, comparative analyses and carefully-designed experimental tests.

The link between marine biodiversity and ecosystem function is therefore elusive (Duarte, 2000), and conclusive demonstrations are still few. The functional role of marine biodiversity probably aggregates two components, a direct effect of biodiversity on ecosystem function and an indirect effect derived from idiosyncratic contributions. Indeed, even when idiosyncratic contributions dominate, there should be a relationship between marine biodiversity and ecosystem function, since a more diverse community it is more likely, even by chance alone, to include a particular species with a key contribution to the function of interest.

Core strategic project. Comparative analysis of marine biodiversity and ecosystem functionality

Objectives This flagship project will determine the rates of selected ecosystem process for different systems and across seasons to provide comparative assessments of the variability of functional measures across Europe. Analysis will incorporate a large number of MarBEF teams using a coordinated strategy to determine rates of ecosystem functionality from a wide diversity of ecosystems, incorporating both benthic (soft sediment and rocky shore) and pelagic (coastal and oceanic) systems. This generic study will provide an invaluable dataset with which to compare the activities of marine systems with terrestrial systems and examine the validly of transposing terrestrial paradigms in ecological theory to marine ecology.


Rates of ecosystem functionality in both benthic and pelagic systems will be determined across different European MarBEF sites. The functionalities to be assessed will include respiration rates, primary production, secondary production, nutrient fluxes, grazing rates, reproductive rates, and growth rates.


The principle requirement of theme 2 is the understanding the role of biodiversity in the functionality of ecosystems. The project will be supported by a workshop which will determine protocols to address the functionality measures while participants will establish the relevant experimental manipulation with their own systems (pelagic, benthic etc). The workshop will also address the problem of the many metrics used to assess aspects of biodiversity, and problems related to protocols and analysis of ecosystem functionality. This workshop will be used to assure the comparability of data across the project and act as set of minimum recommended measures for MarBEF members and firmly establish the work programme for the first 18 months.

Deliverables, Milestones and Tasks

Following PDF, Theme2.pdf contains a list of people that have agreed to be responsible for the various theme 2 delivrables and milestones.

Key Areas for responsive mode actions

Research topics that need to be addressed to better understand this link include studies on:

2.1 Ecosystem metabolism

Data from terrestrial systems suggest a positive relationship between ecosystem metabolism (rates of primary production, recycling, etc) and diversity. However, pelagic systems differ fundamentally from terrestrial systems in that basic metabolic rates are largely due to the activities of microscopic organisms, phytoplankton-protozooplankton-bacterioplankton, among which endemism may be nearly non-existent.


  1. To determine metabolic rates in pelagic and benthic communities and verify if such rates are related to external forcing factors or to species interactions (
  2. To quantify rates and efficiency of parameters such as carbon fixation, respiration, nutrient re-mineralization and the diversity of planktonic and benthic populations
  3. To assess the gradient of trophic conditions which exist in European coastal and offshore waters

2.2 Food web efficiency

The efficiency by which organic carbon flows through food webs is an important function structuring ecosystems, and ultimately determined the efficiency of the ecosystems to produce harvestable food for humans. Marine food webs are generally longer and likely less efficient than those on land. Food web efficiency also determines the relative impact of food harvesting for the oceans, the top-down effects of removing organisms high up on the food web. The relative impact of harvesting should be much greater in inefficient food webs, which require more primary production to yield the biomass harvested.


  1. Examine comparative efficiency of food web linkages across ecosystems.
  2. To examine how food-web linkages are affected by diversity changes

2.3 Ecosystem stability

The stability of ecosystem is an essential trait determining the sustainability of all of its functions and the services they convey to society. Ecosystem stability can be assessed through two traits, the resistance of the ecosystem to external forcing and disturbance, and the resilience of the ecosystem, referring to its capacity to return to the original state after this has been altered by significant disturbance. Ecosystem stability is an essential function to consider in formulating sustainable use policies, since ecosystems that have low resistance and resilience will be particularly vulnerable to external forcing. Disturbances acting upon ecosystems are manifold, ranging from chemical and physical disturbance or biotic disturbance. The introduction of alien species is a particularly relevant case of biotic disturbance, with about 500 alien species having been agents of disturbance.

Plankton blooms also represent abrupt changes in species evenness and are an important component of ecosystem stability. Often such blooms pose serious sanitary problems due to the production of toxins by phytoplankton blooming species that not only cause a series of human pathologies, such as paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, but are responsible for massive fish kills, both wild and farmed, as well as the deaths of many aquatic birds and mammals.


  1. To assess resistance of ecosystems to external forcing and disturbance
  2. To understand the impact of blooms on ecosystem functioning
  3. To verify if and how the introductio0n of alien species has modified ecosystem functioning

2.4 Key species and Functional Groups

Functional groups have been defined for various types of marine organisms, including marine autotrophs, which have been grouped into unicells, foliose and leathery macroalgae, macrozoobenthos, and fish and benthos which have been grouped according to feeding guilds (e.g. detritivores, suspension feeder, etc.); and bacteria, which have been grouped into sulfate-reducers, fermenting, etc. depending on their metabolic pathways, which are linked both to their taxonomic position and their functional role.

Examination of the relationship between functional diversity (i.e. the diversity of functional groups) and ecosystem function offers a more promising and practical approach to address this link than the use of traditional species as the unit upon which marine diversity is to be evaluated. Wherever idiosyncratic effects or functional group effects are found, the relevant path becomes the prediction of the trait best linked to the function For this we need to associate functional information with the species inventories in theme 1 - a huge task but well worth following. We also need to understand how functional groups are distributed in space and time, and how these distributions are disrupted by climate change, man"s activities etc.


  1. To identify key species or functional groups in the plankton and benthos
  2. To define the relationship between key species/functional groups and ecosystem function
  3. To associate functional information with species inventories in theme 1

2.5 Chemical and genetic diversity and its impact on ecosystem functioning

Many of the compounds produced by marine organisms are unique and have no terrestrial counterparts due to the competitive and demanding nature of the marine environment. Understanding the mechanisms of action and natural function of these compounds may provide new insights into the molecular and cellular processes that regulate basic physiological and ecological processes at sea, and provide a basis for new applications in marine biotechnology.

To date, several thousand marine secondary metabolites have been described, with new compounds being discovered continuously. Several of these compounds have demonstrated antibiotic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and other pharmacological activity, and are presently being exploited for their biotechnological potential. Chemical diversity in marine plants and animals should, therefore, be examined not only to better comprehend their role in shaping marine diversity but also for their potential applications in medicine and the chemical industry.


  1. To provide chemical tools for assessing marine biodiversity
  2. To understand the mechanisms of action and biological function of marine natural products
  3. To understand the link between chemical communication and ecosystem functioning


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