ECSA 54 Day 2

The Tuesday starts with the opening of a new topic “From genes to ecosystems: Effects of global change”. Keynote speaker is professor Filip Volckaert from Belgien, who talks about intraspecific biodiversity on a genetic level. Three years ago, I would have been lost at the first slide, but after having spent time hanging over the shoulder of my collegue Angelica Ardehed, who is the geneticist that extracts the DNA from all the seaweed i pull out of the water, I can follow the entire lecture. Thank you Angelica!

This was a really good keynote for the topic. Filip Volckaert lays the field for todays speakers really well, by going through the basics of genetics. This will save me some time, since I will have my presentation in this topic at the end of the day. Excellent!

IMG_4428Filip Volckaert summarizes genetica

During the following discussion concerning the need of biologists to also take courses in policy making, law and economics, Volckaert says “I live in Belgium, yes, but Brussels is abroad for me. I send postcards home when I go there.” A comment in true Groucho Marx-style.

First out of the presentations is Mike Elliot from University of Hull, who summarizes ”Conceptual models of the consequences of global climate change for estuaries and seas”. He kindly warns us that he will make our Brains explode with the amount of “horrendograms” he is about to show us. I myself rather like conceptual models, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We do, luckily survive, however. Many of the models are really good, but a Little colour never goes amiss. It is a brilliant summary of what needs to be done to achieve the EU’s marine framework directive. Mike ends by showing a slide of the ”to do”-list. I just wish politicians would understand how much work this will require.

IMG_4433“We only need to know all this to achieva good ecological status

Guillem Chust from Spanin follows with ”Vulnerability of estuarine species and communities under climate change”. He has inverstigated how a warmer climate might affect the distribution of the seagrass Zostera noltii along the Basque coast by coupling hydromorphological models with species distribution models. He presents how the seagrass’ distribution would change at two different scenarios, elevated temperature and elevated sea level, with reductions of biomass between 20-40 %.He also shows a neat setup where they are trying to recreate a seagrass bed by putting out boxes of sediment in which they have already planted Zostera noltii. I’m rather tempted to try that at home at the Askö laboratory, just for fun, with our Zostera marina.

Next presenter is an old friend from Tjärnö, Greg Charrier. He has been ther for five years, and we met at a CeMEB course where he was teaching genetic methods. Small world. Greg, who is now safely back in France, presents ”Integrative approach on the responses of a coastal fish to global warming”. They have worked with flounder (Platichthys flesus) which has turned out to be a good indicator for water quality and stress, along the French, Spanich and Portugese Atlantic coast. Using common garden experiments, they checked if the Southern populations, at the edge of its distribution, are more tolerant to warmer temperatures (heat stress) that the others. They have also tested the sensitivity to other chemicals (chemical stress) and low oxygen levels (hypoxic stress). Stress is measured by comparing the growth rate of small stressed flounders to non-stressed, and also by measuring different metabolic processes.

The research of Morgana Tagliarolo from Rhodes University focuses on what mechanisms Controls the distribution of the two bivalves Perna perna and Mytilus galloprovincialis (a relative to our blue mussel Mytilus edulis) outside the Namibian and South African Coast. Perna perna is the native mussel, and Mytilus galloprovincialis has arrived later and is considered invasive. Morgana has tested if they differ in metabolism, which means looking at who grows fastest and can thus compete better for space, and also if the metabolism differs at different temperatures. The South African coast is tidal, wich means that the mussels are pup in the air at low tide. Therefor they have measured both in water and in air, to get a true image of the mussels life. It is important that studies should have ecological relevans, something not everyone always remembers.

After coffee (mini-lunch) with a small cup of coffee a la Black Death, we take our seats again to listen to Adriana Verges talk on ”Climate-driven shifts in herbivory and the disapperance of kelp forrests in eastern Australia”. She focuses on what will happen when the herbivorous fish that keep the coral reefs in the tropical Waters clean from algae, moves into temperate Waters due to rising sea temperatures. On the coral reefs, the fish are the key to keeping the reef algae- free, so that the corals aren’t shaded or suffocated. But in temperate Waters, algae are the foundation species, providing the shelter as trees in the marine forrest. And they cannot withstand the intense grazing by the coral reef fishes.

IMG_4434Horror films for seaweed lovers

Inventories of the kelp forrests along Eastern Australia show that the kelp has been reduces since 2002. In some localities it’s been grazed to a barren. Adriana shows some film clips of where they hade put out kelp and filmed how soon fish and sea urchins, two notorius kelp eaters, finds and consumes the kelp.The research is part of a cooperation with amongs others Japan, who have the same problems.

B Duarte continues along the same line but up on land with ” The impact of extreme temperature events on halophytic vegetation”. Being halophytic means that you, as a plant, are able to grow in salty environments, and that in some cases even grow better there. The Camargue delta in southern France, for example is a very good place for halophytes.
These plants have to cope with growing submerged from time to time, which may cause low or no access to oxygen for the roots, sometimes there are periods of drought. A tough life. The results show that halophytes are generally not significantly affected by colder periods, but that extreme periods of heat causes a great loss of energy for this group of plants.

We return bavk into the sea and the macroalgae with the presentation of I Rodil, ”Effects of global climate change factors on macroalgae subsides and consequent impacts on sandy beach consumers” which shows that the sandy beaches are not the marine deserts as previously thought, because they are supplied with macroalgae from adjacent hard bottoms, allowing for a richer fauna. If the nutrient content of macroalgae would be negatively affected by climate change, this will in turn affect the faunal assemblage of the sandy shores. But how? Exciting research on Laminaria ochroleuca and Sargassum muticum follows, and is then connected to the sandy shore animals. A fun study in several steps to ensure the overall system is covered and links two different habitats.

It is always wonderful to see the beautiful images of marine organisms. The BalticSeaWeed blog is generally positive to algae, but there are times when they are not wanted. Aschwin Engelen does research on corals along the coast of Portugal and presents his group’s research “Temperate gorgonians during invasive seaweed proliferation and acidification preassure,” which shows how invasive algae are smothering coral. Most prominent is the invasive alga Asparagopsis armata . But corals are also grappling with problems with infections due to hot water and mechanical damage from fishing lines.

To really get a clear picture of what affects corals, they have also mapped all the microbes on corals (microbiome) by genetic sequencing. Apparently, many coral species have unique microbes that they do not share with other, closely related , coral species.

By exposing corals to different algae by allowing water from an algae to pass over the coral, they could see how microbes respond to the seaweed chemical signal by moving away. This could cause a lowering of the coral’s defense against epiphytes, which would allow the algae to attach to the coral. Exciting!

After a long lunch with a dip in the refreshing Atlantic Waves (16 degrees is not bad), we returned to the Conference to listen to the presentation with the best title: ”Photosynthetic sea slugs and global climate change: The role of kleptoplasty in a changing world”. Giselle Dionisio works with the wonderful Little green velvet sea slug Elysia viridis and has tested how the chloroplast that they take from the algae they feed on, survives at high temperatures. Cleptoplasty (stolen chloroplasts) is very complex and suprisingly Little is known about it, so it was a very interesting talk, and we had a great chat afterwards.

IMG_4447Cleptoplast – one of my favourite words

After a sugarhyped coffeebreak it was time for yours truly to proclaim the wonders of Fucus radicans and its sexual dimorphism (more on this over a pint or in the upcoming thesis).

Ellens presentationThe magic World of Fucus radicans!

After ten minutes of presentation and a couple of good questions, we moved on about 50 meters down the road to the postersession, that was held in a Beautiful building with a tiled exterior, typical of Portugal.

IMG_4413Nice and very picturesque.

Cacophony is a rarely used word, but it describes well what erupted. 200 scientists in a small room with beer, wine fruit juice and tapas, and 60 posters that everyone want to read and discuss. Scientific mingle at its very best. Worth noting is that beer in Portugal comes in 20 cl bottles. That’s called a mouthful in other countries.


After mingling and chatting for well over two hours, we are now back at the hotel for a short rest Before dinner. Yesterday was the Day of Molluscs, today it will be Crustaceans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s