A new network for genetic monitoring and early detection of marine alien species

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[2020-12-02] After three years of hard work, we are happy to announce a marine biodiversity observation network (MBON) for genetic monitoring of hard-bottom communities.

The network consists of Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) which are continuously deployed in the vicinity of marine sanctuaries, ports, and marinas across Europe’s coastal seas and even in the polar regions. The aim of ARMS-MBON is to assess the status and changes in near-coast environments, using genetic methods supplemented with image analysis and visual inspection methods.

ARMS are passive sampling systems for the collection of marine fauna on the sea floor. They consist of a stack of plates that mimic the complex structure of the sea bottom and are quickly colonised by marine species. After a period of time they are recovered and taken apart to see who moved in.  

“On a single structure in Crete, we were able to identify the presence of fifteen non-indigenous species. We knew that the region was under extreme pressure from maritime traffic, but were really surprised to see that the number was this high. Genetic monitoring allows alien species to be identified much earlier than by any conventional sampling method”, says Matthias Obst, co-founder of SeAnalytics and Associate Professor at the University of Gothenburg, who leads the recent publication in Frontiers in Marine Science that describes the initial findings of the network.

This network is supported by the EU funded ASSEMBLE Plus project, the European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC), the Interreg program GEANS, and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM).

Read more

Global ARMS Program: www.oceanarms.org

The European ARMS Programme: http://www.arms-mbon.eu/

Full publication: www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.572680/full

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sckV0FIAXd8&feature=emb_logo