Biodiversity protection is now recognized as a planetary challenge. Mediterranean marine benthic communities, such as biogenic reefs, are one of the most threatened habitats owing primarily to human disturbances. As these systems come under increasing human pressures, the need for spatial and temporal monitoring of the species composition of these threatened communities becomes paramount.
Hosted by the UNIBO Department of Biological, Geological and Envrionmental Science (BiGeA), CoMBoMed aims to foster a new European working group able to combine molecular species identification (through barcoding) with morphological identification to develop an exhaustive Mediterranean macrobenthic inventory database that could integrate and improve the universal barcoding databases (e.g., BOLD-System, Genbank) and the biodiversity and biogeographic databases (e.g., World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS); Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)).
Building on the knowledge and experience of invited partners on species identification and barcoding techniques, CoMBoMed aims to:
- Identify the gaps and conflicts among taxonomic and barcoding databases and how to fill them through the integration of different expertise and through implementation of local integrative databases and inventories of species inhabiting subtidal Mediterranean habitats. These databases will be used in a metabarcoding approach for an easy, fast and standardized spatial and temporal biodiversity monitoring.
- Foster an awareness of the importance of conservation of Mediterranean marine benthic biodiversity through outreach activities mainly focused on young people. Activities will include field work and recreational activities that are designed to discover species inhabiting subtidal habitats.
- Build up a Mediterranean multidisciplinary team covering a range of taxonomic barcoding expertises to train the next generation of integrative taxonomy scientists.
- Draft a Horizon 2020 proposal aimed at training next generation taxo/barcoding experts able to create, test and analyse innovative methods for the monitoring of the marine biodiversity.
Expected outcomes include:
- An opinion paper on the status and the gaps of the present day morphological and barcoding inventories of marine benthic species across the Mediterranean basin and their importance for the success of biodiversity monitoring through metabarcoding.
- The organization of a day of field and/or recreation activities for the general public (mainly young people) that should be made concurrently with the World Biodiversity Day 2019 (22 of May) to raise awareness of marine benthic species diversity and their conservation. Outdoor activities will include a Marine BIOBLITZ (a period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all living species within a designated area) and other role playing games.
- The outline of a Mediterranean hands-on integrative benthic taxonomy summer school that will combine morphological taxonomy and molecular barcoding analysis to be held in Autumn 2019.
- A draft joint proposal for the upcoming Horizon 2020 call “Societal challenge 5: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials” (SC5) with the specific objective of “the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems”.
Despite the development of brand-new next-generation sequences technologies that sometimes bypass morphological taxonomy, CoMBoMed wishes to combine and to bring together a critical mass of marine researchers (covering both molecular and broad taxonomic expertises) to draft a H2020 proposal with a strong biodiversity conservation core.