Southern Ocean Biodiversity Observations, Models and Policy
Bruno Danis (promoter): Marine Biology Lab, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Isa Schön (promoter): Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Anton Van de Putte (FED-tWIN researcher): Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Marine Biology Lab, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Research Project :
The Southern Ocean (SO) covers 10% of the world’s oceans and plays a pivotal role in global oceanic and biogeographic processes. While our understanding of Southern Ocean ecosystems and processes has improved considerably in recent years, our knowledge of the region’s biodiversity in comparison to other oceans remains very patchy. Such knowledge gaps hinder our capacity to predict the response of Antarctic marine ecosystems to complex combinations of environmental pressures such as climate change, fisheries and tourism, and to develop and apply suitable conservation policies.
This project aims to increase our knowledge of the Southern Ocean biodiversity in order to develop an adaptive ecosystem-based management framework in an area that is extremely challenging to sample. Improving and sharing our understanding of SO (benthic and pelagic) ecosystems structure, function and variability at different spatio-temporal scales is a pre- requisite to reach this objective.
The overarching tenet of the project is to further improve our understanding of SO (benthic and pelagic) ecosystems structure, function and variability at different spatio-temporal scales and to apply this understanding to support ecosystem-based management of the SO. This approach implies that decision-making does not exclusively rely on individual aspects but rather on the best compromises maintaining ecological processes, ecosystem services, and socioeconomic activities from the managed region.
Studies trying to understand how ocean biodiversity is affected by climate change often focus on large-scale averages across space and time. But individual organisms experience and respond to local shifts in ‘ocean weather’ that occur at much smaller scales. Datasets used for analysing species distribution are often heterogeneous in their scale and resolution. The use of data at the wrong temporal and geographic scale can result in predictions that are wrong, overlook heterogeneity and could mislead conservation and management strategies.
In this profile, the focus will be on understanding and applying appropriate spatial and temporal scales to observations, modelisations and management and to develop an appropriate resolution for monitoring and analysis of SO ecosystems. This approach will allow to understand and mitigate the possible effect of combined stressors such as climate change, fisheries and ocean acidification on contemporary and future ecosystem structure functioning and variability at various relevant spatial and temporal resolutions. All of these are required for an effective ecosystem-based management of the SO.