Elucidating the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems through synthesis and comparative analysis (META-OCEANS) (38154)

Project Details


This project was an EU Marie Curie Early Stage Training PhD network. The project was designed to improve and apply meta-analytical methods to oceanographic and fishery research questions.

There are significant gaps in knowledge regarding the structure of marine food webs, the ecological roles of taxa of different sizes and the factors controlling linkages between different functional groups. Moreover, marine ecosystems continue to suffer from the impacts of human society superimposed on naturally and anthropogenically induced climate variability. These impacts include exploitation, eutrophication, pollution, species transfers and habitat alteration; they cause changes in the structure, function and biodiversity of marine ecosystems. However, the ability of marine scientists to predict the magnitude and direction of how marine taxa, functional groups and entire ecosystems respond to these changes, remains fragmentary. As a result, when asked by society for advice about how marine ecosystems will respond to different kinds of perturbations (including management actions), the marine science community can often only provide answers with high levels of uncertainty.

Students were trained in the use of meta-analysis techniques for marine ecological problems. The statistical methods were comparative and involved regression analysis, time series analysis, Bayesian analysis and trophic modelling. Students attended seminars organized by network scientists and visited scientists in partner institutes to attain additional training.

Meta-analyses approaches make use of existing data, produced in the context of different specific analyses, but which gain new value when assembled and re-analysed in a broader perspective.
Meta-analyses involve several stages:
(1) data mining; (2) quality control, (3) data analysis, and (4) validation. Students were trained in all these steps.

DTU Aqua had two PhD students involved in the project. These projects used Bayesian and meta-analytical methods to show that standardized estimates of maximum population growth rate for all assessed cod stocks vary spatially across the Atlantic and in a dome-shaped relationship with temperature, and that extremely good or bad recruitment occurs in years with extreme temperatures.

In addition, new time series-based ways of forecasting cod population dynamics under climate change-exploitation scenarios were developed and the role of a trawling ban on a local cod population was shown to override temperature or other climate effects on stock productivity.

Both projects produced papers in high impact journals (2 in Proc. Roy. Soc., 1 in PNAS), as well as in other leading fishery-marine ecology journals (MEPS, ICES, JMS, etc.) s in other leading fishery-marine ecology journals (MEPS, ICES JMS, etc.).

This project was coordinated by AZTI Tecnalia, Spain and is funded by EU, Marie Curie.

Research area: Oceanography
Research area: Marine Populations and Ecosystem Dynamics
Effective start/end date01/03/200609/12/2011

Collaborative partners

  • Technical University of Denmark (lead)
  • National Center for Scientific Research (Project partner)
  • CSIC (Project partner)
  • University of Bergen (Project partner)
  • AZTI (Project partner)
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Project partner)


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