Creating a long-term infrastructure for MARine Biodiversity research
in the European economic area and the Newly Associated states
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The second MARBENA e-conference ran for two weeks, from 5 to 20 September 2002:

Marine Biodiversity in the Baltic and the European context

Is a general methodology for biodiversity monitoring possible and do ecosystems with high and low diversity function in a similar way?

Chair: Alf Josefson

The Baltic Sea drainage basin is essentially an estuarine area encompassing estuaries of different sizes, from small bays and fjords to large water bodies like the Baltic Sea itself. The drainage area surrounding the Baltic Sea covers countries with intense land use from agriculture and forestry, and also heavy industrial activities. As a result there is a high pressure from both nutrients and contaminants on the water bodies of the region, and it is generally perceived that the biodiversity of these ecosystems is threatened by human activities. Biodiversity of the Baltic Sea is low to very low and even small changes in biodiversity may therefore have large impacts on ecosystem functioning. To assess whether biodiversity change is a serious problem in the Baltic, many problems of how to measure diversity, both in general and in particular in the Baltic, have to be solved. A discussion is therefore needed on what general methodologies for measurement and evaluation of biodiversity exist, which ones can be borrowed from terrestrial systems, which ones are specific for marine biodiversity and which ones can be applied to the Baltic situation.

Estuarine areas like the Baltic are transition zones between land and the sea where a number of important processes occur: biogeochemical (degradation, burial, gas exchange etc), production such as fish and shellfish yields, and also recreational activities. As mentioned, a typical feature of these environments is their relatively low biodiversity. It has been suggested that since the diversity of species is low but the system performs in the same way as other marine ecosystems, changes in species diversity are likely to have significant consequences for the ecosystems. The work on clarifying the links between biodiversity and ecosystem function should therefore have high priority in the future, because when we know these links is it possible to assess consequences of species loss and addition due to invasion of new species, and adopt appropriate management counteractions to stop negative trends or restore diversity.

The purpose of the present e-conference is to provide a forum for discussions covering issues of Baltic Biodiversity that hopefully can be used in the future by managers and the scientific community.

The e-conference is scheduled around 3 topics of which the first one is general including both terrestrial and aquatic systems, with the marine Baltic as example of a low diversity system. The chairperson will together with the opponents open the discussion each day and prepare summaries that will be posted on the website.

TopicStarting dateTitleIntroduced by
15 September "Monitoring approaches strategies and indicators" Alf Josefson
210 September "Is there a coupling between diversity and ecosystem function in the Baltic Area?" Ragnar Elmgren
313 September "Marine Biodiversity in the framework of GBIF and ENBI" Cees Hof and Mark Costello
17-20 September Opportunity to send comments and continue discussions on summaries of sessions 1 to 3; general discussion, loose ends and synthesis.

General coordination: Carlo Heip ,Herman Hummel and Pim van Avesaath
Web site and conference hosted by VLIZ