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Marine Microbial Diversity

The marine microbial community has the highest functional diversity and plays an important role in many biochemical processes. The Working Group on Marine Microbial Diversity drew up a list of the major research challenges and opportunities in the field of marine microbial biodiversity, and outlined the priorities which should be addressed by the European Research community for the period 2011-2020.


Position Paper 17, Marine Microbial Diversity and its role in Ecosystem Functioning and Environmental Change (June 2012)




Marine ecosystems cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface, host the majority of its biomass and contribute significantly to all global cycles of matter and energy. Not only is it likely that all life on earth originated from microbes in the sea, recent rapid developments in molecular ecology, metagenomics and ecological modelling illustrate that today microbes represent the most important biological grouping on earth in terms of phylogenetic and functional diversity.

Furthermore, interdisciplinary research based on the integration of sequence data, membrane lipid research and isotope techniques has uncovered new and unexpected roles of microbes in the biogeochemical cycling of Carbon, Nitrogen, Silica and Iron and many other (trace) elements in our seas and oceans. To reflect on where we are in the field of marine microbial research and to assess how to best make plans for the future of European research effort in this area, we initiated a foresight activity on Marine Microbial Diversity


  • Re-emphasize the importance and role of microbes in the marine environment;
  • Identify strategic areas for Europe in the realm of marine microbial diversity research, with specific reference to ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical cycling and environmental change;
  • Provide recommendations and a roadmap to guide European research in the medium term to substantially increase our knowledge of marine microbial diversity and its role in / response to environmental change and to improve the competitiveness of European research in this field.


Relevant Events

  • The publication of the Position Paper 17, Marine Microbial Diversity and its role in Ecosystem Functioning and Environmental Change was officially launched at the European Maritime Day 2012 Stakeholder Conference on 22 May 2012, Gothenburg, Sweden.



  • 15-16 June 2011, Ostend, Belgium
  • 10-11 February 2011, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2-3 September 2010, Brussels, Belgium
  • 17 February 2010, Brussels, Belgium



Chair: Frank Oliver Glöckner, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Germany

Working Group members:

Adriano Bordalo, Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) and Institute of Biomedical Sciences of Abel Salazar (ICBAS), University of Porto, Portugal
Josep Maria Gasol, Mediterranean Marine and Environmental Centre (CMIMA) - CSIC, Spain
Åke Hagström, Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, Sweden
Francisco Hernandez, Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Belgium
Mathias Labrenz, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Germany
Fergal O'Gara, University College Cork (UCC), Ireland
Pitta, Paraskevi, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Greece
Ruth-Anne Sandaa, University of Bergen (UiB), Norway
Lucas J. Stal, formerly at Institute of Ecology of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (NIOO-KNAW), Netherlands
Elena Stoica, National Institute for Marine Research and Development Grigore Antipa, Romania
Marta Varela Rozados, Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), Spain


Contact at European Marine Board Secretariat: Email