Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Biodiversity and ecosystem function

Changes in biodiversity, including those due directly and indirectly to outbreaks of indigenous species, invasions by alien species and changes in distribution, can have major implications for the functioning of marine ecosystems. Changes in ecosystem functioning can, in turn, impact strongly on services and direct economic benefits to society, such as productive fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. For example, invasive gelatinous zooplankters such as Mnemiopsis may be changing foodwebs, reducing survival of larval fish and damaging fisheries. Likewise, introduced seaweeds can alter the structure and functioning of benthic assemblages.

In global terms, a substantial research effort is underway to develop a body of ecological theory to characterise and explain relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Relevant research is, however, fragmented and has tended to focus on tractable model systems rather than changes in biodiversity that are directly relevant to society and environmental management. Synthesis is needed to clarify the extent to which general theoretical models are applicable in different environmental contexts.   Research to date has focussed primarily on species-level diversity emphasising individual differences among taxa and localities. This does not offer an intuitive, quantifiable link to ecosystem functioning and services which would provide clearer direction for scientific-based management of marine ecosystems.

VECTORS research focus:

  1. Completed three systematic reviews to rigorously establish and summarise current knowledge on the following topics from a management perspective and identify key gaps in knowledge and data on impacts of:

    • outbreaks of macroalgae
    • invasions by macroalgae
    • ecosystem engineers
  2. Tested potential of Biological Traits Analysis as an indicator of ecosystem effects of changing biodiversity. BTA is an approach to linking diversity and function by characterising the functional traits of assemblages and thus facilitating comparisons among regions and prediction of functional consequences of changes to ecosystem structure that may be of relevance to society. 
  3. Completed original field- and laboratory-based experimental research to test directly the impacts of selected invasive alien species in different environmental contexts and with direct relevance to society, specifically we have tested impacts of:

    • Invasive seaweeds in the Tuscany archipelago, including comparisons of impacts on assemblages with varying degrees of proximity to urban environments
    • Chinese mitten crabs in the North Sea, with a particular emphasis on bioturbatory activity at varying densities and temperatures
    • Invasive mussels Musculista senhousia in the Oristano Gulf, considering effects on benthic processes and food webs
    • Gammaridean amphipods in the Baltic Sea, examining impacts on native amphipod species
    • Predatory cladocerans Cergopagis pengoi in the Baltic Sea, focussing on feeding biology and potential impacts on larval fish including those of commercial species.
  4. The plans for this work were developed in consultation with upstream and downstream WPs in VECTORS and with input from members of the RAB and RUG.  Findings have been disseminated via Deliverables 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3, through conference and workshop presentations and through a series of publications.  Region-specific findings have also been incorporated into synthesis reports for the focal regional seas of VECTORS.

Lead Author

Tas Crowe

Explore other research themes under the categories below:

The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Legal  |   Privacy & Cookies