3rd International Workshop on Trait-Based Approaches to Ocean LifeInternal

Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: August 20, 2017
End Date: August 23, 2017
Venue: Bergen, Norway
Website: Workshop website
Contact: Professor Øyvind Fiksen
E-mail: oyvind.fiksen [at] uib.no
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2016 Call for Proposals
Decision Body: EuroMarine Steering Committee
Total Budget: €29,000
Funds Granted: €7,500

Manager(s): Øyvind Fiksen
Application/registration deadline: March 31, 2017
Registration website: https://skjemaker.app.uib.no/view.php


60 to 100 participants are expected to meet undertake foresight and horizon scanning activities to: develop a roadmap for future developments of the approach in the marine scientific community; Invited and contributed lectures; Interactive poster sessions; Discussion groups with plenary presentations; and informal working groups related to the latest trait-based approaches.


Trait-based approaches to understand marine ecosystem structure and functioning. In the report by Barton & al (2016), this topic was described succinctly: ‘The trait-based approach to ocean life is emerging as a novel framework for understanding the complexity, structure, and dynamics of marine ecosystems, but also their broader significance.' The keynote speakers for the event are:

Zoe Finkel:  Macromolecular and elemental composition of microalgae
Oswald Schmitz: The evolutionary ecology of ecosystem functioning: Functional traits, trophic interactions, and ecosystem nutrient cycling
Helmut Hillebrand: Trait variability and environmental heterogeneity constrain community composition and ecosystem processes
Frede Thingstad and Selina Våge: Can we constrain the “everything”  in “everything is everywhere”?


  • To assess and continue the development of trait-based approaches in different fields of ecology and marine science,
  • facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas and progress between marine, terrestrial and limnology-based researchers and students,
  • to use a Horizon-scanning format to identify core emerging questions and issues relevant to the use of trait-based approaches, and
  • to point out how these methods can be utilized to better understand marine ecosystem functioning and as a framework for marine ecosystem modelling.

Expected Outcomes

The product from the last Workshop was an extensive report, now published online and made freely available: Barton, A.D., S. Dutkiewicz, K.H. Andersen, Ø. Fiksen, M. Follows, C. Mouw, N. Record, and T. Rynearson (2016). Report on the “Trait-based approaches to ocean life” scoping workshop, October 5-8, 2015, U.S. Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program, 35 pp., DOI: 10.1575/1912/8017. The workshop will continue to inspire and trigger publications co-authored by participants from across the Atlantic and the Euromarine member organisations.

The 2017 meeting will 1) produce a full report as from earlier workshops; 2) write a synthesis paper based on experiences and discussions during all three meetings that have taken place in the group; and 3) this appears to be the right time to undertake a full review of the field and to do a Horizon scanning exercise.

The trait-based approach is taken in many areas of ecology and ecosystem science, and the series of workshops on ‘Trait-based approaches to Ocean Life’ has proven to be a rare and vital meeting place for different disciplines in this field. With this third meeting we are anchoring it as the place to be to follow this emerging field. The workshop will attract young talented students and future scientists to this vibrant field.


How can the essential properties of community structure and ecosystem functioning be captured from a limited number of traits in organisms? In August, 120 researchers from 31 nations met over four days to answer this question.

Ecosystems are complex machineries, and our ability to predict how changing drivers and environmental forces influence them are limited. One way to represent and understand organisms, communities and ecosystems is to think in terms of specific traits, not species, and how the dominant traits appear in an evolutionary or ecological process from fundamental trade-offs between alternative traits. Marine ecologists and oceanographers have over the last decade turned to trait-based approaches to develop models and to understand ocean communities. The third workshop on trait-based approaches to ocean life was held in Solstrand, outside Bergen, Norway during 20-23rd of August. The earlier meetings in 2013 (Copenhagen) and 2015 (New Hampshire) set the stage for this arena as a key meeting place for researchers working in this direction.

The trait-based workshops have always focused on bringing in perspectives from general ecology. The first keynote this year was Oswald Schmitz, from Yale University. His talk was on the 'evolutionary ecology of ecosystem functioning' - with examples on how behavioural plasticity in grazers, in response to fear from specific predators, can shift grazing pressure, plant communities and nutrient budgets in the soil. Helmut Hillebrand followed up the next day with a keynote on how trait variability and environmental heterogeneity constrain community composition and ecosystem processes. Zoe Finkels' keynote brought us to the unicellular domain, focusing on macromolecular and elemental composition of microalgae and Frede Thingstad took us even further into the microbial world, to the interactions between viruses and bacteria, to the competition between algae and bacteria and the mixture of drivers shaping structure of microbial communities.

The workshop included 20 contributed talks, 80 posters and a set of break-out sessions, round-table group discussions and plenary discussions with prepared comments. Next meeting in 2019 will be organized by Ben Ward in the UK. The web-page cam be found here (https://traitbased.b.uib.no/), while the list of abstracts, break-out groups etc can be found at the following address: https://traitbased.b.uib.no/sample-page/