Marine Ecosystems Functioning Research groups

We are specialised in marine ecosystems research. Knowlegde of their structure and functioning will result in an improved management of the environment and its resources.

Our four main areas of activity are:

Climate Change

We are committed to one of the key future challenges: assessing the impact of climate change on the oceans, coasts and marine resources, to define adaptation strategies for the society, and to establish mitigation measures to reduce emissions.

We accompany marine renewable energy companies throughout the process of environmental impact studies. We advise public administrations on the preparation of climate change adaptation plans, focused on land planning and ecosystem preservation.

Our research projects are based on four areas:

  • Observation, trends and generation of system models: we study population distribution, abundance and dynamics of different species and trophic groups within the ecosystem. We analyse habits and eco-systems through modelling and how these variables may change in relation to climate condition change.
  • Simulation of future scenarios: we simulate future scenarios and provide advice for public administrations regarding possible changes in ocean-climate conditions and the migration of species.
  • Impact evaluation, vulnerability and adaptation: To minimise the impact of climate change on marine resources, natural ecosystems and coastal urban areas, our researchers have specialised in defining the best ways to adapt to future climate change scenarios (impact risk and vulnerability indicator mapping), in the study of corrective measures and preparation of contingency plans. We define how goods and services provided by ecosystems could be impacted and analyse the socio-economic cost of adapting.
  • Climate Change Mitigation (emission reduction): We study possible corrective measures and assess efficiency and impact; in particular, in relation to the preservation of habitats of interest, vulnerable species and ecosystems.

Marine Ecosystem Functioning

Our activity is focused on collecting information enabling us to have a global vision of oceans and seas, and understanding their complex processes.

  • Integration of ecosystem information: we collect all relevant ecosystem data enabling us to know and exploit ecosystems in a more sustainable way.
  • Ecosystem structure – from genes to top predators: We analyse biotic components (characterisation of biodiversity, community structure and dynamics and their trophic relationships) and abiotic (habitats and environmental conditions) as well as environmental component impact on biological processes (growth, survival, mortality and recruitment); and in particular, those impacting commercial species.
  • Marine ecosystem functioning: we strive to understand and describe physical and biological processes which take place in the ecosystem. One of our ultimate targets is to model these processes to carry out ecosystem operation simulations, improving our knowledge of ecosystem operation and for future simulations.
  • Integrated ecosystem assessment:  knowing the ecosystem and modelling will enable us to generate tools to assess the ecosystem and simulate future scenarios.

Operational Oceanography Systems

Our researchers are experts in the study of hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes, by means of advance instrumentation to measure oceanographic variables.

  • Environment characterisation: we apply existing and emerging technologies to observe and characterise marine environments.
    Physical processes: we analyse oceanographic processes for monitoring and prediction of marine conditions, extreme events and their impact on our coast and on marine organism dynamics and in particular, on exploitable populations.

Molecular Ecology and Biotechnology

Our researchers look for solutions related to sustainable ocean management and recovery.

This is done through:

  • Development of Molecular ecology tools: we study evolution relationships among species through phylogenetic techniques; generate reference genomic information such as genomes, transcriptomes or gene maps; we identify Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs).
  • Applications to living: we perform taxonomic identification through genetic techniques (barcoding) of specimens which are difficult to identify by visual inspection (eggs, larvae); we determine taxonomic diversity through genetic techniques (metabarcoding) and metabolic diversity (metagenomic, metatranscriptomic) of environmental samples to study species distribution and role in the ecosystem; to develop tools to monitor environmental conditions and identify alterations in species compositions due to climate factors; we study the food chain structure (prey-predator interactions) through genetic analysis of stomach contents; we determine using genetic polymorphisms analysis the population structure of marine species and connectivity among subgroups to provide information for improved management of species of commercial interest and protected marine areas.

Science field

Physical Sciences

RIS3 Priorities
  • Biosciences & Health
Main researcher
Unai Cotano
Herrera Kaia, Portualdea z/g 20110
How to arrive