Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
EU Network of Excellence

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[ Overview ][ Objectives ][ Spreading Of Excellence ][ Partners ][ Associated Partners ][ Committees ][ Project Management ][ Data Management ][ Taxonomic Clearing System ][ Quality Assurance ][ Training ] [ Outreach ][ SMEs ][ Theme 1 Global Patterns ][ Theme 2 Ecosystem Functioning ][ Theme 3 Socio-economics ]


Encourage the development of a group ethos & create a formal transnational entity

MarBEF will bring together the presently dispersed units of scientific excellence in Europe and will create a virtual European centre of excellence in marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The mix of outstanding and committed individuals is the core ingredient of any centre of excellence and the large scale of MarBEF will address one of the biggest questions in marine biology - namely that of elucidating the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

In a phased manner, we will establish the European Centre for the Study of Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (EMBEF) as a Europe-wide, virtual institution. Its secretariat will initially be coordinated from Yerseke but all network members will be founder partners and will be asked to include the EMBEF component as part of their affiliation on all papers published under the banner of MarBEF. EMBEF is conceived as a method of executing MarBEF identified activities in the long term, beyond the duration of MarBEF. Its main content will initially be training courses and workshops, but it will move into publication as a second step.

The creation of EMBEF must assure the prominent and lasting place of marine biodiversity research in Europe and in the world so that the link to global initiatives such as the Census of Marine Life and DIVERSITAS can be established at the European level. EMBEF can also become an advisor and contributor to the European Platform for Biodiversity Research and Strategy.

Create or facilitate access to resources and install a sabbatical system

MarBEF will facilitate: access to research vessels, sampling and/or analytical equipment, distributed computing facilities, mesocosms, web-based analytical and taxonomic tools, experimental facilities, databases, molecular laboratories, reference collections, libraries etc. We will generate a register of these resources available through MarBEF. We will bring together resources where the need has been identified, e.g. new web-based tools for identification, and a taxonomy clearing system to overcome the taxonomic/identification bottleneck and streamline the process of identification of specimens and the description of new species.

We will facilitate a system of short-term sabbaticals ranging in duration from two weeks to three months. We will use this system to promote the exchange of between European institutions of senior scientists engaged in collaborative MarBEF-related research or training activities, and to provide seed-money for proposal writing.

Promote and undertake collaborative research on marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

The scientific objectives of the MarBEF programme are:

  • To understand how marine biodiversity varies across spatial and temporal scales, and between levels of biological organisation, in order to develop methods to detect significant change.
  • To generate theory, models and tests of the relationship between marine biodiversity (assessed at different levels of organization: genetic, traditional species, and functional groups) and ecosystem function through the integration of theoretical and modeling exercises, comparative analyses and carefully-designed experimental tests.
  • To understand the economic, social and cultural value of marine biodiversity and hence develop the research base required to support the sustainable management of marine biodiversity including, for example, the monitoring of the health of marine ecosystems, the management of aquaculture, the conservation of marine biodiversity, the history of marine resource exploitation, and the leisure use of marine ecosystems.

MarBEF will stimulate the creation of teams with the right mix of skills, expertise and resources. We have brought together the critical mass of researchers who together will generate a series of project proposals in topics related to marine biodiversity. In doing this MarBEF will also strengthen the European contribution to international programmes, such as the Census of Marine Life, and future IGBP and DIVERSITAS initiatives.

Promote communication and integrative data management

MarBEF will espouse the philosophy of data sharing. Access to very large scale data sets will bring unique benefits, the most important of which is that such data sets can reveal patterns not apparent in small scale data. The IT heart of MarBEF will be a specialised search engine and a series of interlinked databases, including several existing databases, such as ERMS. They will allow network members to know what research is being done, or is planned, throughout the network and it will enable them to better plan and integrate future research. The core facility will be a distributed database containing information about all of the marine species known to occur in European waters, with details of sites from which they have been recorded. The biological data and associated physical data will form the basis for ongoing research into marine biodiversity research across Europe, ranging from long-term, large-scale studies to small-scale, short-term investigations. This system will be designed for sharing data: only by pooling our data resources across Europe can we become truly competitive when addressing the big questions in marine biodiversity and ecosystem science.

The MarBEF portal will be linked to existing regional and global databases, such as GBIF, ERMS, ASFA, FishBase, AlgaeBase, OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System), British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC), SAHFOS and MBA-MarLin, all of which have invaluable expertise as well as data relevant to our objectives.

Create a forum for industry, stakeholders and end-users

MarBEF will promote between industry and research by inviting SMEs to join the network in particular tasks.. We will provide or facilitate access to data pertinent to applied aspects of marine ecology, including: changing patterns of marine fisheries, continuing growth of aquaculture, the search for novel natural products, and the use of the marine environment for waste processing or disposal. Working at the interface between marine ecology and socio-economics, we will explore and stimulate public debate on alternative valuation systems for marine ecosystems, marine products and marine biota, and ways of mitigating anthropogenic impact on these systems.

Quick links


Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC)

Responsive Mode Programme (RMP) - Marie Nordstrom, copyright Aspden Rebecca

part of WoRMS logo

ERMS 2.0
Epinephelus marginatus Picture: JG Harmelin


Geographic System



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