The RAATD workshop

This week, Bruno Danis is attending the fourth RAATD workshop, hosted at the CESAB (Center for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity), in Aix-en-Provence. 10 participants from 7 countries are attending the meeting.

The Retrospective Analysis of Antarctic Tracking Data (RAATD) is a multispecies assessment of habitat use of Antarctic meso- and top predators in the Southern Ocean based on existing animal tracking data to identify Areas of Ecological Significance, i.e. regions that are important for foraging to a range of predators and which, consequently, present an important biodiversity. RAATD was initiated by the SCAR Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals (EG-BAMM), and provides (i) a greater understanding of fundamental ecosystem processes in the Southern Ocean, (ii) facilitate future projections of predator distributions under varying climate regimes, and (iii) provide input into spatial management planning decisions for management authorities such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The synopsis of multi-predator tracking data will also expose potential gaps of data coverage in regions or seasons that are important but underrepresented, possibly due to biases in the spatial, temporal, or taxonomic distribution of research effort. We have collated all available tracking data by research groups that worked in the Antarctic since the 1990s. We have then establish a preliminary publicly accessible repository of these data. The final publicly available repository will only have the raw data that data holders have agreed to share and will contain data from almost 40 contributors from 12 national Antarctic programs. The dataset contains data on 17 predator species, with more than 3400 individual animals, and more than 2.5 million data points. We will also share the outputs of the project, including filtered and processed versions of these data, and habitat model outputs.


Camille is off to the ACE Expedition

This season 2017, Camille Moreau, PhD student at the Universities of Brussels (ULB) and Dijon, is joining a major Swiss-led research expedition circum-navigating the Antarctic: the ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition).

In the framework of his PhD project, Camille will take part as a member of the ASCCC (Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change) team gathering scientists from master students to senior scientists. Their research will investigate the importance of sea bed animals in carbon cycling and how climate change will impact these processes in the Southern Ocean.

The project is led by David Barnes, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey and zoology/ecology professor at the University of Cambridge. He took part in the first leg of the expedition, from Cape Town to Hobart. Camille will join the team in Hobart, Tasmania for the second leg of the expedition, a which will take the ship to Punta Arenas, Chile. The team will have the opportunity to visit rarely studied sub-Antarctic islands (Macquarie, Balleny, Scott, Peter the 1st and Diego Ramirez). They will also carry on researches around the Mertz Glacier in Antarctica.

Collection of benthic organisms using a trawl, investigation of marine debris ashore and use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will organise their daily life for the next few weeks.

For more information regarding the expedition and the ASCCC project follow this link or follow their progress on twitter @ACE_Expedition and @asccc_news.

New paper in Advances in Polar Science

A new paper by lead author Angelika Brandt was recently published in Advances in Polar Sciences. The paper addresses the main issues faced in the framework of deep-sea biodiversity monitoring:

Despite recent progress in deep-sea biodiversity assessments in the Southern Ocean (SO), there remain gaps in our knowledge that hamper efficient deep-sea monitoring in times of rapid climate change. These include geographical sampling bias, depth and size-dependent faunal gaps in biology, ecology, distribution, and phylogeography, and the evolution of SO species. The phenomena of species patchiness and rarity are still not well understood, possibly because of our limited understanding of physiological adaptations and thresholds. Even though some shallow water species have been investigated physiologically, community-scale studies on the effects of multiple stressors related to ongoing environmental change, including temperature rise, ocean acidification, and shifts in deposition of phytoplankton, are completely unknown for deep-sea organisms. Thus, the establishment of long-term and coordinated monitoring programs, such as those rapidly growing under the umbrella of the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) or the Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS), may represent unique tools for measuring the status and trends of deep-sea and SO ecosystems.

Citation: Brandt, A., Griffiths, H., Gutt, J., Linse, K., Ballerini, T., Danis, B., & Pfannkuche, O. (2014). Challenges of deep-sea biodiversity assessments in the Southern Ocean. Advances in Polar Sciences, 25(3), 204–212. doi:10.13679/j.advps.2014.3.00204

The SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean


The SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean has been officially launched at the SCAR Open Science Conference in Auckland, New Zealand. The Marine Biology Lab of the ULB has been heavily involved in the effort, mainly in the edition, data mobilization and writing of the book.

You can download the first chapter of the Atlas as a preview.

Below is the press release, as prepared by the British Antarctic Survey.

The new Atlas, providing the most thorough audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean, is published this week by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Leading marine biologists and oceanographers from all over the world spent the last four years compiling everything they know about ocean species from microbes to whales.

It’s the first time that such an effort has been undertaken since 1969 when the American Society of Geography published its Antarctic Map Folio Series.

In an unprecedented international collaboration 147 scientists from 91 institutions across 22 countries (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the USA) combined their expertise and knowledge to produce the new Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean.

More than 9000 species are recorded, ranging from microbes to whales. Hundreds of thousands of records show the extent of scientific knowledge on the distribution of life in the Southern Ocean. In 66 chapters, the scientists examine the evolution, physical environment, genetics and possible impact of climate change on marine organisms in the region.

Chief editor, Claude De Broyer, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said:

“This is the first time that all the records of the unique Antarctic marine biodiversity, from the very beginnings of Antarctic exploration in the days of Captain Cook, have been compiled, analysed and mapped by the scientific community. It has resulted in a comprehensive atlas and an accessible database of useful information on the conservation of Antarctic marine life.”

The data, and expert opinions, in the Atlas will help inform conservation policy, including the debate over whether or not to establish marine protected areas in the open ocean. Sophisticated environmental models coupled with existing species distribution data provide a valuable outlook on the possible future distribution of key species as they adapt to climate change.

New advances in genetics have shed light on some of the best known species from the Antarctic sea floor. The giant isopod crustacean Glyptonotus antarcticus is one of those. The animal lives on the edge of the continent at depths of up to 600 metres. Previously considered to be a single species with a circumpolar distribution, molecular barcoding suggests it may, in reality, be a group with up to eleven species inhabiting much smaller geographic regions.

Author, and editor, Huw Griffiths, of the British Antarctic Survey, said:

“The book is unique and contains an amazing collection of information and photos. It’s been an enormous international effort and will serve as a legacy to the dedicated team of scientists who have contributed to it. The Atlas is a must-read for anyone interested in the animals living at the end of the Earth.”

The Atlas contains around 100 colour photos and 800 maps. It will be launched at the SCAR 2014 Open Science Conference in Auckland, New Zealand on Monday 25th August.

BIOMAR Lab hosting mARS workshop

This week, we are hosting another workshop to scope out the next steps for the Microbial Antarctic Resources System (mARS) , a followup project from SCAR’s Expert Group on Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics (EG-ABi).

The participants include Alison Murray (Desert Research Institute), Anton Van de Putte (, Nabil Youdjou ( and Bruno Danis (Marine Biology Lab). PhD students from the CCAMBIO project also attended, as beta-testers.

The Microbial Antarctic Resources System (mARS) is envisioned as an information system dedicated to facilitate the discovery, access and analysis of geo-referenced, molecular microbial diversity (meta)data generated by Antarctic researchers, in an Open fashion. The scope of diversity will encompass all freel-living and host-associated virus, Bacteria, Archaea, and singled-celled Eukarya.

mARS focuses on past, present and future works. It offers a community-driven platform for scientists to publish, document, analyse and share their (meta)data with the broad community for science, conservation and management purposes, in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.

This week, we will  be beta-testing the mARS to take it to Step 3, as described in our vision document.

BIOMAR Lab hosting dBASO workshop


This week, we will be hosting an international workshop to scope out the new dynamic Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean (dBASO), a followup project of SCAR’s Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean.

At the end of five years of extensive biodiversity exploration and assessment by CAML and the OBIS Antarctic Node (the SCAR Marine Biodiversity Information Network), a new initiative, the multi-authored “SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean”, has been established under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) to provide an up-to-date synthesis of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic biogeographic knowledge and to make available a new comprehensive online resource for visualisation, analysis and modelling of species distribution. It will constitute a major scientific output of CAML and SCAR-MarBIN as well as being a significant legacy of CoML and the International Polar Year to fulfill the needs of biogeographic information for science, conservation, monitoring and sustainable management of the changing Southern Ocean. It will be of direct benefit to the Antarctic Treaty and associated bodies such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Ten participants from 5 countries (Australia, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Belgium) will be working on the initial development steps to make dBASO go live.