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Microbial Diversity and Functionality in Cold-Water Coral Reef Ecosystems

Period: 2007 till 2010
Status: Completed

Institutes (3)  Top 
  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Wetenschappen; Vakgroep Geologie; Renard Centre of Marine Geology (RCMG), more, co-ordinator
  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Biotechnologie; Centrum voor Microbiële Ecologie en Technologie (CMET), more, partner
  • European Science Foundation (ESF), more, sponsor

Cold-water coral reefs thriving on carbonate mounds have been discovered in the late 90's off western Ireland and recently off Morocco. Mound building seems to be a fundamental but still enigmatic strategy of Life, developed since Precambrian times onwards. Various arguments suggest that microorganisms are playing a major role in reef development and biodiversity. Mounds may find their origin at the confluence of fluxes from external (oceanic) and internal origin (geofluids). Long cores taken in 2004 showed that the 'Pen Duick' mounds off Morocco, in which microbial action was demonstrated by an strong emission of hydrogen sulfide, may be considered as giant biogeochemical reactors. MiCROSYSTEMS proposes to turn the Pen Duick mounds into a natural laboratory through the following actions and experiments: a. - Biotope exploration and characterization of biodiversity through geophysical and video imaging, targeted microbiological profiling, evaluation of present and past oceanic conditions, b. - Microbial diversity census and evaluation of the functional link microbes-metazoans through metazoan species analysis, biogeochemical and molecular fingerprinting, laboratory culturing, fauna-microbe interactions analysis, evaluation of microbially mediated processes of carbonate precipitation, c. - Assessment of the impact of biodiversity changes through the development of a reactor technology to simulate and assess the functionality of the micro-ecological niches and the impact of environmental changes. The MiCROSYSTEMS project closely dovetails with European projects on deep-water coral ecosystem conservation and with IODP Expedition 307. The project will foster a Europe-Maghreb cooperation on the Moroccan margin and contribute to the ICoMM initiative within the Census of Marine Life Programme.

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