On April 9, 2018 the HEALSEA project officially started!
After 6 years working as a PhD candidate and a postdoc in the Netherlands, I am very happy to travel back to my dear south of France to start working on this exciting new project: HEALSEA. This research project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement N° 797025. It is a 24-months long project that I will be doing at the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) in Montpellier and Sète, France.
Why two locations? Because, as part of this project, I will be affiliated to two research units: the UMR MARBEC (MARine Biodiversity Exploitation and Conservation) and UMR ISEM (Institute of Science of Evolution). During the first year, I will be mostly based at MARBEC in Sète at the Ifremer research station, close to my designated field site: the Thau lagoon. For the second year, I will be spending more time at ISEM in Montpellier on the university campus. A short-stay at the University of Pisa will also be planned during the second year as a secondment.
So, what is the HEALSEA project about?
HEALSEA – “innovative indicators of resilience to protect the HEALth status of SEAgrass meadows: from ecological theory to conservation”
Seagrasses are key ecosystem engineers that create structurally complex habitats in coastal areas, thereby increasing biodiversity and providing important ecosystem services. Their documented and worldwide loss calls for effective conservation measures. Our capacity to succeed in this task largely depends on our aptitude to anticipate their decline. Ecological theory and some evidence suggest that seagrass loss is often sudden, and cannot be predicted without exactly knowing the trajectory of their response to increasing stress or their behaviour before and after decline. Ecological theory also proposes that systems close to decline become more stochastic and slow in recovering from disturbance, a phenomenon known as critical slowing down. Such theory can be applied to complex ecological systems, providing appropriate experimental tests on suitable signals of this phenomenon, called indicators of resilience. Yet, knowledge on seagrass response patterns and the identification of these theoretical indicators of resilience is lacking. By means of a field manipulative experiment and model simulation based on literature and experimental data, the proposed research aims at (1) identifying what are the response patterns of seagrass traits to a gradient of stress; and (2) testing for the existence of indicators of resilience in seagrasses. In addition, the project will (3) implement the results into a protocol of action to be used by practitioners as innovative tools to anticipate potential changes in seagrass resilience. The development of this project will contribute significantly to seagrass conservation using an innovative approach that combines experimental work with ecological theories and modeling.
Use these links to get more information on the scientific context and research objectives of the project, and the researchers and institutes involved in the project.