Project: Functional Variability and Dynamics of Responses of Marine Forests to Global Change

Acronym MARFOR (Reference Number: 165)
Duration 31/12/2016 - 30/12/2019
Project Topic Marine forests of large brown algae (kelp and fucoids) are blue-green infrastructures that constitute one of the most productive and biodiversity-rich marine ecosystems of Europe and the world. They deliver ecosystem functions and services at multiple levels (e.g., food, chemical substances, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance, tourism, science and education), underpinning important economic activities in most European coastal regions. Species that structure marine forests are currently suffering range shifts due to global change drivers that, based on genetic evidence and modelling of previous climate cycles, may leave behind isolated pockets with distinct adaptive traits and unique gene pools. Biogeographic boundaries present in the Northeast Atlantic and the low dispersal capacity of kelp and fucoid species are expected to undermine the connectivity between populations in these pockets, potentially curtailing functional trait evolution and adaptability, and ultimately compromising their long-term persistence. Project MARFOR aims to test these hypotheses by understanding the geographical variation in biodiversity components that affect fitness and consequently the future trajectories and fate of these keystone ecosystems. This project aims to: 1) Understand the critical features (adaptive, eco-physiological, genetic biodiversity and connectivity) that support the functioning of blue-green infrastructures created by habitats of marine forests of large brown algae along the European coastlines. 2) Incorporate the knowledge of seascape biodiversity dynamics and critical features to model and forecast consequences of global change drivers under future scenarios and to propose sustainable management goals and measures to sustain in the long term their essential support to ecosystem functioning, comprising the delivery of a multitude of ecosystem services. The different teams involved integrate here have strong and complementary multidisciplinary expertise and are geographically distributed along the relevant coastal zones, including very poorly studied marginal populations. This will create a highly qualified partnership with immense added value that will assess ecological, ecophysiological and functional genomic differences between species and populations as a means to understand the functional role of connectivity boundaries that exist along the European coasts and in relation to adjacent Macaronesian archipelagos where marine forests have been recorded. This will be achieved by implementing interdisciplinary ecological, ecophysiological and genetic comparisons replicated at a European scale, across marine forests spreading out from the Azores to the Arctic, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean. These goals will be supported by a large scale citizen science initiative that will deliver crucial information about the distribution of marine forests and will allow better communication and engagement with the general public and local stakeholders. Distributional and ecophysiological results, namely species-specific thermal ranges, will inform niche models and predictions under present environmental conditions and future climate scenarios. Based on samples collected throughout Europe, transcriptomics and genetic connectivity will be evaluated. The functional genetic diversity assessment of the different species and meta-populations will be interpreted in view of the distribution model results in the Northeast Atlantic. The new information on the spatial structure of population traits and genetic connectivity of marine forests will provide a missing piece of the puzzle in implementing conservation practices. In particular it will contribute to understanding population viability, designing/assessing networks of marine protected areas, choosing donor populations for restoration actions, and knowledge-based stimulus to the seaweed blue economy sector. Important outcomes will include white papers to assist stakeholders in the implementation of sound climate policies and strategies based on a cost-benefit analysis of sustainable development (whether by adaptation or mitigation) under contrasting scenarios and forecasts.
Network BiodivERsA3
Call BiodivERsA3 Joint Call 2015

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 CCMAR - Centre of Marine Sciences Coordinator Portugal
2 Alfred-Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Science Partner Germany
3 AMU - Aix-Marseille University Partner France
4 CNRS-Roscoff Partner France
5 IMAR-Azores Partner Portugal
6 University of Cologne Partner Germany
7 University of Goteborg Partner Sweden
8 University of Malaga Partner Spain
9 Aarhus University Observer Denmark
10 University of Bologna Observer Italy