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A network of excellence

Marbef (Marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning) is an European network of excellence. Networks of excellence are a new way of thinking. They were designed to strengthen the scientific and technological excellence on a particular research topic by integrating the research capacities of the participants. The formation of the marBEF network of excellence aimed to overcome the fragmentation of European research. It brought together 700 scientist from 95 separate institutes in 24 European countries to integrate marine research, to provide training, exchange and outreach opportunities and initiatives that will be of huge importance both to science and society.[1]


The MarBEF network of scientists addressed the most topical questions in marine ecology, biogeochemistry, fisheries biology, taxonomy and socio-economics in Europe through a core strategic programme which consisted of three themes.[1]


Theme 1: Patterns of species diversity

Before we can answer the question of why biodiversity varies, we need to know the basic patterns of its distribution in space and time. The most fundamental data on diversity are the numbers of species in different places. It is a fundamental problem for marine biodiversity studies that this is largely unknown.

Spatial scale is the overriding variable that needs to be considered when discussing the changes in diversity and what has caused these changes. Scales are often defined from the perception of the human observer and less as a function of the species or communities considered. It is customary to distinguish between local, regional and global spatial scales. Locally, species diversity in any locality is seen as a balance between two opposing forces. On the one hand, local abiotic processes, interactions between species and chance tend to reduce diversity; on the other hand, immigration from outside the locality tends to increase diversity. Each local population is seen as a sample from a larger species pool. Theories on larger, mesoscale patterns take migration and dispersion explicitly into account. [1]

Theme 2: What structures species diversity?

The second main question that MarBEF addressed was to understand why biodiversity changes and what the consequences of these changes are for ecosystem functioning. Traditionally, species interactions are considered to be important for structuring biological communities, but this has not been investigated in great detail and has not yet been demonstrated for the open ocean. The importance of species identities and species interactions for regulating biogeochemical cycles, as supported mainly by microorganisms, needs further study, which has become extremely urgent in view of the rapid changes in climate and biodiversity itself.[1]

More information on the interaction between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning can be found here and here

Theme 3: Socio-economic consequences

Finally, MarBEF has looked at the socio-economic consequences of biodiversity change. Valuation of intrinsic biological characteristics of certain communities and areas is necessary to to bring the study of biodiversity into the realm of socio-economic sciences and is considered important for policy-making, e.g., in spatial planning.[1]

Below you can find more information on:


  1. 1,0 1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4 Heip, C., Hummel, H., van Avesaath, P., Appeltans, W., Arvanitidis, C., Aspden, R., Austen, M., Boero, F., Bouma, TJ., Boxshall, G., Buchholz, F., Crowe, T., Delaney, A., Deprez, T., Emblow, C., Feral, JP., Gasol, JM., Gooday, A., Harder, J., Ianora, A., Kraberg, A., Mackenzie, B., Ojaveer, H., Paterson, D., Rumohr, H., Schiedek, D., Sokolowski, A., Somerfield, P., Sousa Pinto, I., Vincx, M., Węsławski, JM., Nash, R. (2009). Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning. Printbase, Dublin, Ireland ISSN 2009-2539