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Published: 01 March 2017

Find out the latest news from the Marine Ecosystems Research Programme

Aquatic Macroecology Meeting

Published: 17 February 2017

MERP were co-sponsors of the Aquatic Macroecology Meeting at Charles Darwin House, London on September 30th 2016, organised by the British Ecological Society’s Aquatic and Macroecology Groups, which included MERP scientists Nessa O’Connor (QUB) and Tom Webb (Sheffield). The meeting included talks from world-leading experts in the development and application of macroecological tools, who were all invited to discuss how these advancements inform our understanding of aquatic...

Annual Science Meeting held in York

Published: 16 February 2017

MERP held its Annual Science Meeting (ASM) in York on 4-6 October 2016. As the programme is approximately at its half-way point, there was a clear shift in emphasis compared to previous ASMs, from discussions of work to be done and how to do it to presentations of results and plans for work to be delivered by the end of the programme. This was also reflected in the overarching theme of the meeting, which was to promote thoughts within the consortium about how to enhance and promote the...

Mapping the majestic marine mammals

Published: 15 February 2017

People often think that because marine mammals are an iconic group in the eyes of the public, receiving a lot of media attention, they are well protected. Unfortunately that is not the case. As keystone species in the marine environment, they can not only shape ecosystems but also be particularly vulnerable to perturbations. Marine mammals face a wide variety of human pressures. For centuries they experienced exploitation for food and various products. In the middle of the last century...

Mobilising MERP data

Published: 15 February 2017

In order to understand changes in the UK marine ecosystems, one of MERP’s main aims has been to make better use of existing data. This existing information comes from multiple sources and fetching, combining and analyzing it has required developing dedicated programmatic tools. R is a free statistical and programming software, as well as a programming language in its own right. The functioning blocks of R are called packages – documented bundles of ready-made programs that...

Kelp's heating up!

Published: 15 February 2017

We know that marine ecosystems provide a large number of ecosystem services that are dependent on their biodiversity and ecological functioning. Environmental change, including increased temperatures and storminess, threaten to alter these ecological functions and services. Globally, primary production (energy harnessed from the sun) is dominated by phytoplankton (microscopic marine organisms) in marine ecosystems.Recent studies, however, estimate that macrophytes (large plants) contribute 45...

The BESS of beginnings for MERP

Published: 14 February 2017

  It should be no surprise that MERP and the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability programme (BESS) share many features – they were forged in the same furnace. In 2008, an intensive 2-day workshop drew in researchers from the marine, freshwater and terrestrial communities, to create a large-scale programme dealing with the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem services, which translated into an ambitious bid for a £30M programme over 10 years. In the event,...

Identifying impact with ERSEM

Published: 14 February 2017

  MERP models will be used to predict the ecosystem response to a number of scenarios, covering changes in nutrient loading, fishing pressure and climate change. To ensure we capture the cascade of changes from hydrodynamics, nutrients and plankton to fish, sea birds and marine mammals, 3D simulations of ERSEM in the UK shelf seas are used to quantify the changes in habitat (temperature, salinity, currents) and productivity associated with each scenario. These then drive the higher...

Trait Explorer: traits for any marine species

Published: 14 February 2017

  Part of MERP is dedicated to the characterisation of organism traits, such as size, predator-prey preference and physiological rates. For this purpose, we search existing databases and published papers (Module 1) and perform new experiments (Module 2). Trait information is needed to parameterize organism physiology and behaviour in models and translate species abundances into community-averaged traits and ultimately, ecosystem function. For both applications, the traits of interest...

Development of the StrathE2E model

Published: 13 February 2017

  Since March 2016, we have been consolidating a raft of new developments into the StrathE2E model, some arising from improved understanding of ecological processes, and others to meet specific needs in MERP. At the easy-end of the scale, these include the addition of different types of sediment detritus, changes in the way in which food consumption by birds and mammals is represented, and in how birds and mammals respond to temperature. At the more difficult-end of the scale have been...

Understanding trade-offs to maximise the benefits from living marine natural capital (Module 7)

Published: 10 February 2017

  A new project has been funded within the overarching Marine Ecosystem Research Programme (MERP), following a call from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for proposals in September 2016. The call text for this body of work was: “Application of the novel tools and frameworks for decision support developed in MERP's Work Packages 1&2 to explore the trade-offs between different and competing ecosystem services that inevitably arise for particular policy...

Cumulative impacts and management of marine ecosystems (Module 8) 

Published: 10 February 2017

  MERP has always had the ambition not only to increase scientific understanding of marine ecosystems, but also to apply this understanding to the sustainable management of our seas. In MERP Work Package 3, which started in January, this focus on the application of MERP science takes centre stage. The project that I lead seeks to understand in particular how multiple activities interact to affect marine ecosystems, and what the cumulative effects of management actions are. Our...

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Bio-economic Modeller

Closing date: 24 April 2017

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