Census of Marine Mediterranean Benthic biodiversity: an integrative metabarcoding approachInternal


Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: February 11, 2019
End Date: February 14, 2019
Host: UniBo
Venue: Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Science (BiGeA), Ravenna Campus, Italy
Contact: Federica Costantini
E-mail: Federica.costantini [at] unibo.it
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2018 call for FWS and WG proposals
Total Budget: €8,520
Funds Granted: €7,500

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Participants of the workshop, 11-14 February 2019 in Ravenna, Italy.

This foresight workshop, held 11-14 February 2019 in Ravenna, Italy, attracted 24 participants from 16 organisations from around Europe and the USA. These attendees came together in order to identify and address research gaps and the need to adequately monitor and preserve marine biodiversity, as well as the importance of sharing information and expertise at the European level. During the workshop, participants exchanged research findings on a wide range of relevant studies, from the taxonomic study of Mediterranean benthic phyla to emerging molecular technologies for metabarcoding analysis and the use of integrative approaches to biodiversity monitoring. From these presentations and subsequent discussions, the members began work on a number of outputs that will continue to be developed in the near future.

The first outcome of the workshop was an abstract for an opinion paper capturing the overall conclusions of the researchers, who intend to submit the paper along with a cover letter to Trends in Ecology & Evolution journal.

A good deal of discussion was dedicated to the development of future European projects, with the most prominent target being the H2020-MSCA-ITN-2019 Innovative Training Networks call, the deadline of which is January 2020.

The workshop also developed an initial plan for the organisation in 2020 of a two-week summer school (probably at the Stareso Marine Station, Corse, France) on Integrative taxonomy of Mediterranean benthic communities open to about 40 participants from postgraduate to private sectors (consultants). The plan is for this summer school to include some fieldwork activities (like bioblitz), taxonomy and barcoding analysis, and it was agreed that such a school would be a great opportunity to begin implementing the Mediterranean barcoding database

Finally, the last part of CoMBoMed was dedicated to the organization of outreach activities to increase the awareness of biodiversity conservation of the marine environment. In particular, the working group decided to organize a flyer and simple survey on marine biodiversity targeting two or three elementary schools per participant country. This survey will be conducted on the 22 of May in order to coincide with the International Day for Biological Diversity. All the materials will be translated into Italian, French, Spanish, Belgian, Norwegian and English, and upon its completion the researchers will analyze the data and evaluate its potential for a publication.