Marine ecosystems cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface, host the majority of its biomass and contribute significantly to all global cycles of matter and energy. Not only is it likely that all life on earth originated from microbes in the sea, recent rapid developments in molecular ecology, metagenomics and ecological modelling illustrate that today microbes represent the most important biological grouping on earth in terms of phylogenetic and functional diversity. Furthermore, interdisciplinary research based on the integration of sequence data, membrane lipid research and isotope techniques has uncovered new and unexpected roles of microbes in the biogeochemical cycling of Carbon, Nitrogen, Silica and Iron and many other (trace) elements in our seas and oceans.
A number of major European and international projects have made significant progress in addressing marine microbial biodiversity in recent years. With the completion of the FP6 Networks of Excellence Marine Genomics Europe (MGE) and MarBEF (Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning), and large international programmes like Census of Marine Life (CoML) and the International Census of Microbes (ICoMM), it is timely to reflect on where we are in the field of marine microbial research and how to best make plans for the future of European research effort in this area.
WG MICROCEAN Aims:
The Working Group drew up a list of the major research challenges and opportunities in the field marine microbial biodiversity, and outline the priorities which should be addressed by the European Research community for the period 2011-2020. Publication, Marine Board Position Paper 17 Marine Microbial Diversity and its role in Ecosystem Functioning and Environmental Change, was officially launched at the European Maritime Day 2012 Stakeholder Conference (22 May 2012, Gothenburg). The position paper can be downloaded from the Publications page.