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Macroalgae proliferations in tropical and subtropical coastal ecosystems represent a serious threat to marine biodiversity, in particular in coral reefs. The origin and mechanisms of these proliferations are still poorly studied. We propose to address this issue focusing on the genus Asparagopsis (Rhodophyta) enlisted by IUCN among the “100 worst invasive species” in subtropical and temperate areas. A global and multidisciplinary study is needed at this scope:
The ERA-NET NETBIOME programme provides the opportunity to submit an interdisciplinary research project, involving eight French and Portuguese teams specialized in tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems. The consortium will establish a study platform based on a multiscale approach implemented in two hemispheres and three oceans (the Portuguese islands of the Azores and of Madeira, La Réunion, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, and the Mediterranean).
The first objective is to establish the algal proliferation status and monitor Asparagopsis populations and their interaction with cnidarian assemblages. Results will be gathered in an online database allowing the mapping of knowledge across three oceans.
The second objective is to obtain an “identity card” for algal populations by three complementary approaches rarely used together in marine systems:
(i) a phylogeography analysis to identify clades and determine their native vs introduced status in the targeted areas;
(ii) a metabolomic approach to test the relevance of chemical signatures to differentiate taxa/clades (chemotaxonomic approach);
(iii) an assessment of the microbial communities associated with algae using new-generation sequencing. The relationship between this global ID and the proliferation status will be tested.
The third objective is to test experimentally, in situ and in the laboratory, Asparagopsis proliferation and its harmful ecological effects on cnidarians dominated benthic assemblages. In particular, we propose to examine the natural toxicity of algal species on coral health and its putative control by herbivory. We expect to fill knowledge gaps for a better understanding of the algal proliferation and to propose management measures for policy makers/managers. One WP is fully dedicated to capitalization, sharing and transfer of the knowledge.
The consortium involves 8 Partners including the Leader, and represents 5 regions belonging to 4
- New Caledonia and French Polynesia for the Pacific basin,
- La Réunion in the Indian Ocean ;
- Guadeloupe in the French Antilles ;
- the Portuguese outermost country Azores ;
- and Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Partners from the overseas countries are public research institutes and private companies well established in their region with strong interactions with the local agencies in charge of the biodiversity management.
The three national French Partners are familiar with subtropical and tropical marine coastal systems and contribute by reinforcing significantly the competences of the local Partners mainly in evolutionary ecology and biology, biological interactions and chemistry fields.
Most of them have a long partnership history and the project will foster and extend the existing networking by reinforcing the collaboration and promoting the sharing of expertise.
Most of the French partners are members of the research cluster (GDR n°3269) CNRS BioChiMar for the study of Marine Biodiversity and Chemodiversity.
The consortium has an international reputation due to his high level of publication in good scientific journals, which is a good warranty for carrying out the project at an international level.
The Partners have extended facilities for achieving the programme objectives, in particular for
(i) sampling in all the targeted areas,
(ii) sequencing and chemical analyses and
(iii) bio-informatic analyses.
They have strong experience in supervising PhD and post-doc fellows including as part of international or European exchanges.
Finally, they have been leading projects or workpackages in large national and European projects.
The consortium had decided to establish a specific Workpackage [WP1] addressing the project plan and feedback management, throughout the duration of the project.