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.



PostDoc opportunity!

vERSO PostDoc

The deadline is now passed, we will not be accepting more candidates!


Based at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the BIOMAR marine biology lab carries out its research on the bioecology of marine benthic invertebrates, with a special focus on echinoderms.

Our lab will be coordinating the new vERSO research project which aims to assess the impact of the main stressors driven by global change on benthic Antarctic ecosystems using representative taxa from different size classes of the benthos.

We will assess the simultaneous effects of temperature, acidification, sedimentation and food quality and quantity on nutrient fluxes and metabolism of sediment communities, providing insights in both sensitivity and resilience of these ecosystems. It is intended to integrate these aspects to develop dynamic species distribution models (SDMs), under non-equilibrium conditions. These models can help reveal tipping points leading to irreversible changes in ecosystems functioning.

We are looking for a postdoctoral scientist, for a period of 2 years


Global change affects Antarctic communities through numerous interacting stressors, the most important ones being temperature increase, acidification, increase in sedimentation rate and change in nutrients and food supply linked to glacier melting, reduced seasonal ice cover and ice shelf collapses. For the Antarctic the impact of stressors such as temperature rise and acidification have so far mainly been considered at the individual or species level and, in most cases, only a single impact factor was studied and occasionally two. These studies provided evidence that numerous taxa as well as global diversity will be affected. However, no community-level studies addressed the combined effects of the aforementioned stressors on Antarctic benthos. Furthermore, it is obvious that stressors will act synergistically and that their combined effects should be determined.

Emphasis will be put on in situ experiments during polar expeditions, in two contrasting areas of the Southern Ocean. In parallel, dynamic SDMs will be developed to gain insights on the potential future distributions of models organisms under various Global Change scenarios.


  • PhD in Marine Biology
  • Spent over 24 months abroad (not in Belgium) during the last 3 years
  • Interest in polar ecosystems and biodiversity informatics
  • Ready to participate in long sampling campaigns at sea or station-based
  • Experience in project coordination and interest in modelling is an asset


If you are interested, please send a brief CV, and a letter of motivation to the project coordinator (Dr Bruno Danis,, no later than April 30th, 2014.


Microbes, Diversity and Ecological Roles session at the SCAR OSC

You can register now for the Microbes, Diversity and Ecological Roles session at the SCAR Open Science Conference , which will be held in Auckland, New Zealand from 23 rd August to 3rd September 2014

Most, if not all, Antarctic ecosystems are home to microbes that can span the range from sparse to dense and low to high diversity assemblages. These organisms o<en harbor specialized capabilities to withstand the environmental extremes that the high latitudes of the Antarctic pose. This session welcomes contribu/ons to our understanding and appreciation of Antarctic microbial systems, exploring diversity and ecological roles, contributions to biogeochemical cycles, and interactions between organisms (symbiotic, predatory or parasitic) and ultimately how microbes come together to influence Antarctic systems.

The increased recognition of microbes in all domains of life inhabiting Antarctic ecosystems – and in some cases not only surviving, but thriving in these systems (e.g. aquatic, icy, soil, rock, subglacial, marine benthic or pelagic) is gaining traction largely due to increased scientific exploration of diverse environments paralleled with technologic improvements in molecular sciences (e.g. next generation sequencing and bioinformatics analyses), application of geobiological tools, and remote sensing of both environments and organisms. This session has been developed by AntEco and the International Union of Biological Sciences.

The session is convened by:

Prof. Alison Murray, DRI, USA

Prof. Nils Chr. Stenseth, University of Oslo, Norway

Dr. Ian Hawes, University of Canterbury, New Zealand


Abstract submission deadline: 14 February 2014

Download the flyer here: SCAR-OS_MicrobesSessionFlyer

Biomar Lab hosting mARS workshop

This week, we will be hosting a hands-on workshop to push the mARS project further, with Alison Murray (Desert Research Institute), Anton Van de Putte and Nabil Youdjou ( project)

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.

mARS is composed of interoperable modules, iteratively building the microbial component of the network.
To the best extent possible, the wishes of the community regarding mARS functionalities will be reflected in the flexibility and scalability of the system. Feedback is expected from the users community in order to align their needs and the functionalities of mARS.

This week, we will  try to get through Step 3 of the mARS system and prepare for Step 4 once we have enough data in mARS to make it worthwhile.

mARS steps include:

1. Data description and discovery

2: Habitat and Microbial Sequence Metadata Entry (MiMARKS Data Standard; Microbial_Sequence_Set_Template)

3: Georeferenced-molecular sequence database integration

4: Processing batch sequence data –Circum-Antarctic microbial diversity

You can find more on the mARS white paper page.


Détroit de Bransfield (Bransfield Strait)

Nous avons réalisé les derniers traits d’AGT (AGT=Agassiz trawl ou chalut Agassiz) dans le Détroit de Bransfield, à l’ouest de la Péninsule antarctique. Nous y avons comparé trois stations, chacune comportant quatre sites de prélèvement, s’étageant entre 150 (plateaux) et 700 m de profondeur (canyons). Les prélèvements se sont donc succédés à un rythme soutenu ces dernières semaines. 

Trait de chalut dans le Détroit de Bransfield, 250m (Photo Chantal De Ridder, ULB)

De nombreuses espèces d’oursins ont été récoltées dans toutes les stations explorées (ce qui nous a ravi !); certains oursins ont pu être maintenus vivants à bord et observés dans un des laboratoires du bateau. Des échantillons ont été préparés pour des analyses isotopiques, moléculaires et morphométriques qui seront réalisées à Bruxelles et à Dijon (analyses de la composition en isotopes stables, analyses de la microflore bactérienne, analyses des complexes d’espèces). Philippe a parallèlement pu mesurer le métabolisme respiratoire ainsi que le métabolisme acide-base chez des oursins récoltés dans des environnements contrastés, en passant de longues heures dans un des laboratoires réfrigérés du bateau. Nos premières observations indiquent un effet marqué de l’englacement sur la biologie des oursins, et une relative ‘adaptabilité’ dans les différents environnements étudiés. Nous faisons route maintenant vers le Passage de Drake, une région ‘plus océanique’, très peu soumise à l’englacement et où les oursins disposent de ressources trophiques variées et abondantes durant toute l’année. Cette dernière série de prélèvements clôturera notre étude comparative des échinides issus d’environnements soumis à différentes conditions d’englacement.  Le Polarstern quittera l’Antarctique et prendra la direction de Punta Arenas le 14 mars prochain. Le retour est donc en vue. Ces deux mois en mer ont été productifs scientifiquement mais ils nous ont aussi permis de découvrir les abords d’un continent hors du commun. Le brise-glace Polarstern, en navigant ‘sur la banquise’ (‘dans du solide’ !), nous a offert des moments étonnants à la rencontre de paysages magnifiques, déclinant toutes les gammes de blanc. Enfin, un des aspects sympathiques des expéditions en mer est le fait de travailler simultanément avec des chercheurs d’origines très diverses, et de confronter nos idées, nos méthodes, et … nos cultures ! Chantal, Philippe et Bruno

Nouvelles de la Mer de Weddell

Nous naviguons actuellement dans une zone particulièrement englacée de la Mer de Weddell, les vents dominants et les courants rabattant la glace vers les côtes de la Péninsule antarctique. Le Polarstern doit régulièrement se frayer un passage dans la banquise. En eaux plus libres, nous croisons de larges fragments de banquise (glace de mer) et des icebergs imposants (fragments de glaciers largués aux marges du continent Antarctique). Passagers de ces îles flottantes, les phoques et les manchots, nous observent surpris par ce gros brise-glace.

photo: Katrin Wheatley, EG-BAMM

Notre travail consistant à comparer la biologie du benthos de la plateforme continentale dans des zones soumises à des contraintes d’englacement différentes, plusieurs sites de récolte ont été sélectionnés. Chaque site exploré (“core station”) comporte une station profonde (ca. 400 – 500 m de profondeur) et une station peu profonde (ca. 100 m de profondeur), ce qui nous informe sur les fluctuations des communautés benthiques en fonction de la profondeur.

photo: Julian Gutt, AWI

Jusqu’à présent, nous avons exploré une zone s’étendant depuis le nord de l’île de Joinville jusqu’au sud de l’île de Dundee. Les sites échantillonnés indiquent une diversité faunistique fascinante et des communautés d’organismes très distinctes, généralement dominées par des groupes trophiques particuliers. Les échinodermes et plus particulièrement les échinides (oursins) en sont des membres incontournables, ils sont présents dans quasi toutes les communautés examinées! Un de nos objectifs est de cerner leur comportement alimentaire et leur métabolisme dans des conditions de milieu contrastées, et de caractériser leur degré de sensibilité face aux fluctuations des facteurs de milieu. Ces derniers sont examinés par d’autres équipes de biologistes à bord qui étudient les caractéristiques physico-chimiques de l’eau de fond (T°, salinité, teneur en oxygène, concentration en chlorophylle a) et celles des sédiments (granulométrie, matière organique, concentration en chlorophylle a). La mission étant multidisciplinaire, biologistes et océanographes se côtoient, ce qui est particulièrement stimulant. En pistant les masses d’eau pour caractériser leurs mouvements, les océanographes apportent un supplément d’information sur les courants qui circulent dans nos sites d’échantillonnage.

photo: Armin Rose, DZMB

Actuellement, l’équipe d’océanographes et celle qui étudie les populations de krill réalisent un dernier transect en Mer de Weddell. Ensuite, si les conditions d’englacement le permettent, nous nous dirigerons plus au sud, au voisinage de Larsen A, pour y réaliser une dernière série de prélvements dans une zone fort soumise à l’englacement avant de quitter la Mer de Weddell pour le détroit de Bransfield, où la formation de glace est plus saisonnière.

Chantal, Philippe et Bruno