Developing an integrated framework for studying Halophila stipulacea, the world’s first globally invasive marine angiospermInternal


Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: May 22, 2016
End Date: May 26, 2016
Venue: Eilat (Israel)
Contact: Gil Rilov
E-mail: rilovg [at]
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2015 Call for Proposals
Decision Body: EuroMarine Steering Committee
Total Budget: €9,120
Funds Granted: €4,000

Manager(s): Gil Rilov
Co-organiser(s): Gabriele Procaccini

The invasive marine angiosperm, H. stipulacea, may become more prevalent in European waters in the coming years. This foresight workshop aims to understand the threat H. stipulacea will pose to European native seagrasses. The workshop in Israel will bring together 15 participants to conduct a literature review of historical data on the expansion of the species.

Attendees will plan the mapping of the distribution of the species and the undertaking of mesocosm experiments and molecular work. Discussions will centre on how to develop climate envelope distribution models and designing field and lab experiments and developing protocols for the impact of H. stipulacea on native seagrass as well as on biodiversity and ecosystem functions in the invaded regions.

The expected outcomes of the workshop include a review paper on the current state of knowledge on H. stipulacea invasion in the Mediterranean and the design of a framework for a LIFE Action or a H2020 proposal that will focus on developing the molecular, physiological, biochemical and ecological knowledge of the species. This will allow the possibility of predicting the ability of this species to invade European coastal waters and assessing its impacts on both biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

The potential threat to European marine biodiversity posed by this plant is serious. It is time for the European seagrass community to develop tools to understand the invasive character of the species and to undertake experiments that will help predict the ability of this species to expand its spread in European waters.

 participants of the workshop in Eilat, Israle 22-26 May 2016

Participants at the workshop in Eilat, Israel, 22-26 May 2016

This foresight workshop attracted 15 participants from 11 organisations across the world. Since Halophila stipulacea has invaded both the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas, the meeting was held at the Red Sea, where this species is considered a native species, to combine discussions with some field activity to increase the familiarity with the species in its native range (e.g. northern Red Sea). Participants covered the ecology of H. stipulacea and held a session discussing what is known about invasive populations of this species, including talks about thermal resilience, nutrient uptake, genetic composition and predicting expansions using modelling.

A review paper to summarise what is known about H. stipulacea in the Mediterranean, what is known about these seagrasses from the Red Sea and what can be learnt from the most recent invasion in the Caribbean is underway. The meeting also resulted in an exchange of data between two groups on the associated microbial diversity in the red sea and the Caribbean in the hope that the raw data could be merged. Connections between the participating organisations and individuals has been strengthened and joint experiments have been planned for early 2017. This includes the potential for the production of a joint publication based on the exchange of data. Participants aim to find a European funding agency for a larger joint project.


  • Prof. Migliore created a small movie about the meeting that can be found at this link:
  • The review is progressing, with work being undertaken on all literature about Halophila and the mapping of these sites.
  • The organisers are currently seeking the right H2020 call.
  • Dr. Gil Rilov, and Dr. Gidon Winters have also joined the very recent COST action CA15121 Advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas (MarCons). So far this has resulted in joining large review headed by Prof. Stelios Katsanevakis and by reviving some small funds for short term scientific missions.