Activity 1 (1/07/2010 - 31/12/2013)
The aim of Activity 1 is to characterize the spatio-temporal distribution of the comb jelly M. leidyi, based on Standardized Operational Protocols for sampling and preservation of gelatinous plankton (a1) and for species identification (a2), which will be applied to existing and dedicated sampling surveys in the 2 seas region (a3), leading to distribution maps and a habitat model (a4).
a1) The morphological characteristics of most gelatinous plankton species are difficult to preserve. As a result, it is strongly suspected that in the past M. leidyi has sometimes been wrongly identified. To obtain concise and comparable data from each project partner, a Standardized Operational Protocol (SOP) for sampling and preservation of gelatinous zooplankton will be developed in 2010, based on the experience of IFREMER and other partners and a review of existing literature. The SOP will be tested in 2010 by several partners, and might be adapted as necessary.
a2) In addition to the morphological identification, this action focuses on the development of a SOP for the molecular-genetic identification of M. leidyi and other gelatinous plankton. Two identification workshops are planned during 2011. A genetic tool will be developed to assess the distribution and migration patterns of M. leidyi in and out of the 2 seas region. Genetic differences between sub-populations can be detected through microsatellite analysis. This will indicate whether M. leidyi is restricted by any physical border and the prediction of its potential distribution in other marine areas.
a3) All partners conduct local and interregional monitoring surveys in the 2 seas region. These surveys will be extended to include sampling of gelatinous zooplankton according to the SOPs developed in the previous actions. Phytoplankton and zooplankton will also be collected as these data will be used in the subsequent activities.
A cross-border joint survey with all partners will be carried out in the summer of 2012 when the highest levels of M. leidyi are expected to occur. The entire coastal region will be sampled uniformly, with the aim to better understand the distribution of this species. Environmental (temperature, salinity) and biological (phyto- and zooplankton) parameters will also be collected.
a4) The ecological parameters collected in the previous action will be pooled in an integrated database, and used to clearly define the ecological habitat preferences of M. leidyi. This will allow us to create distribution maps, and to build a model of the potential and preferred habitat of M. leidyi, taking into account environmental and trophic features. This model will be used to predict changes in the distribution of M. leidyi in the 2 seas region, in relation to environmental and human impacts (e.g. due to climate change, overfishing).
Activity 2 (1/01/2011 - 31/12/2013)
The aim of Activity 2 is to better understand the biology, physiology and feeding behaviour of M. leidyi, through lab experiments and field studies on reproduction (a1), feeding activities (a2) and stable isotope analyses (a3). This will lead to different mathematical models, including prey – predator interactions (a4) and the development of a life cycle model (a5). These assessments are necessary to evaluate a potential outbreak of M. leidyi in the 2 seas region.
a1) To determine the fecundity and growth rate of M. leidyi, adults collected at sea will be maintained in the lab and the egg production rate will be evaluated under various biotic (food) and abiotic (temperature and salinity) conditions. Mnemiopsis leidyi is a simultaneous hermaphrodite and has self-fertilization capacities. The eggs will be incubated to estimate the hatching success, and the development of M. leidyi through different life-history stages will be followed up.
a2) To estimate diet composition and prey selectivity, controlled lab experiments will be carried out with target prey (fish eggs and larvae, mussel and oyster larvae) and natural prey assemblages (collected in the field and kept alive in the lab). Stomach content analyses via microscopy and genetic identification of prey items will be performed on individuals collected during sea surveys. This allows to assess diet composition, feeding rates and behavior, and the impact of M. leidyi in the field.
a3) In order to differentiate between food types which are actually assimilated from merely ingested by M. leidyi, natural stable isotopic (13C, 15N) signatures will be estimated from M. leidyi collected in situ along with co-occurring planktonic (phyto-, zoo- and itchtyoplankton) species. This approach is relevant in the determination and understanding of trophic role and position played by this species in the ecosystem as well as how these isotopic signatures may vary depending on changes in feeding ecology.
a4) Dedicated lab experiments will be carried out to test whether co-occurring comb-jelly species are competing for food resources or whether a direct predation link exists between M. leidyi and a number of potential predators, like other comb jellies or even fish.
a5) An Individual Based Model of M. leidyi will be developed, based on the results obtained in the previous actions. This will represent all key processes (reproduction, growth, mortality) of the life cycle of this species, The hypotheses on the trophic role of M. leidyi in the ecosystem, as derived from the previous actions, will be tested through the validation of the model using data collected in Activity 1.
Activity 3 (1/01/2011 - 31/12/2013)
This activity aims at developing applied models and operational tools, to answer ecological and socio-economic issues related to the spread and potential impact of M. leidyi in the 2 seas region. A plankton ecosystem model (a1) will be coupled with a socio-economic model (a2) to predict the industrial (a3), ecological (a4) and economic (a5) impacts of M. leidyi. Several mitigation measures to minimize the impact will be evaluated (a6).
a1) An integrated model of the plankton ecosystem will be developed, based on the habitat model (Act. 1) and the Individual based life cycle model (Act. 2), linked to a bio-physical model. The model will incorporate variables that affect the distribution of M. leidyi (currents, temperature, salinity, phytoplankton, zooplankton), and will take into account information on fish and shellfish eggs and larvae, and on potential predators (gelatinous plankton and fish), to cover the entire plankton food web.
a2) A socio-economic study will be conducted based on a questionnaire concerning observed nuisances and potential problems caused by M. leidyi and other gelatinous plankton. The questionnaire will be distributed among stakeholders such as fishermen, shellfish-farmers, tourism bodies, sailing and diving clubs. The results will be used to create maps of sensitive and disturbed areas in the 2 seas region, which will be compared with the distribution maps of M. leidyi based on the combined plankton ecosystem model.
Based on the previous actions, a socio-economic model will be developed. Coupled with the other models, the possible socio-economic impact of M. leidyi on three activities, namely the power plant industry (a3), aquaculture and fisheries (a4) and tourism (a5) will be evaluated. Different scenarios of changing densities of this invasive species will be taken into account.
a3) Industrial impact. Since high densities of comb jellies can clog cooling water intakes, the prediction of the presence and density of this species in coastal areas will be of interest to stakeholders in the power plant industry.
a4) Ecological impact. Maps of vulnerable areas will be created, related to high mortality risks for eggs and larvae of fish and shellfish due to predation by M. leidyi. These will support the management of marine protected areas, fish spawning and nursery grounds and areas dedicated to aquaculture.
a5) Economic impact. The possible effects on tourism will be studied through the results of the questionnaire and the socio-economic model, combined with the process of integrated coastal zone management.
a6) A number of mitigation measures and counteractions will be investigated, which may be implemented to minimize the impact of M. leidyi, e.g. the introduction of predators or the modification of river outflows.
Management & Coördination
ILVO is lead partner of the project and coordinates the cooperation between partners and the progress of the activities and reports. They supervise the overall time and budget schedules of the project and communicate with the Interreg office, in casu the financial, progress and final reports, and the stakeholders and the public, on the information and results of MEMO.
ILVO chairs the regular meetings of the steering committee in which all partners are represented. The project progress will be discussed, and corrective actions will be proposed and voted by all partners. There is a Project, Communication and Financial Manager assigned by the partnership.
All partners contribute to the progress of several activities. Every activity has its own responsible partner (activity 1: ILVO, activity 2: IFREMER and activity 3: CEFAS). Each partner is responsible to (co-)organize a thematic workshop and/or a steering committee meeting and to invite the different stakeholders accordingly. All partners commit to respect the deadlines, to give regular updates, to deliver the financial, progress (progress reports are delivered every 6 months to the Interreg office) and final reports to the lead partner, and to implement the activities and actions according to project plan. A partnershipagreement is set up between partners.
As lead partner ILVO is responsible for the communication within the MEMO-project.
The core of the communication is: “What is the impact van M. leidyi in the North Sea?”.
Information given concerns:
- A Standard Operational Protocol for sampling, preservation and identification and a habitatmodel
- The physiology, eating behaviour and predators
- The environmental impact and socio-economic costs of M. leidyi by means of casestudies – the casestudies are specific for the different stakeholders: fisheries, tourism, industry.
Mnemiopsis leidyi: Ecology, Modelizationand Observation
Mnemiopsis leidyi : Ecologie, Modellering en Observatie (NL)
Mnemiopsis leidyi : Ecologie, Modélisation et Observation (FR)
The communication initially focusses on: academic experts, different stakeholders (fisheries and aquaculture, industry and tourism) and governmental bodies.
Through subsequent communication moments the broader public will be reached. There is also continuous attention for educational and informational purposes to schools, environmental organizations, data centers and libraries.
Visit of undergraduate students (Lycée Branly, Boulogne sur mer) at ULCO-LOG: presentation of culture devices for Mnemiopsis leidyi.
The communication is based on 4 pillars (next to scientific publications and presentations):
- Sharepoint for internal communication
Each of the pillars has its specific value for the different target groups.
For the primary target groups the steering committees and workshops are mainly of interest.
Exchange of information and expertise within the MEMO project is guaranteed by the participation of all partners to the regular 2 days meetings every 9 months, consisting of a Steering Committee or Workshop meeting, combined with a Management Committee meeting.
Concerning the Steering Committee, different (local) stakeholders will be invited to 3 meetings, with a tailor-made strategy per group of stakeholders (different sectors, public, decision makers, scientists), and intentionally organized in 3 different regions and language zones (Belgium, England, France) to have a good representation of the local stakeholders.
An end-user meeting will be organized in 2013 to inform stakeholders including academics, governmental agencies and the public on potentially vulnerable areas and the possible threat of M. leidyi to the 2 seas marine ecosystem.
Four Workshops, on which specific experts will be invited, are planned on:
- morphological identification of comb jellies (IFREMER);
- genetic identification of comb jellies (ILVO);
- habitat modeling (CEFAS);
- ecosystem modeling (ULCO-LOG).
Participation in workshops is limited to academic institutions. During these workshops and meetings, reports, presentations and posters serve as a means of communication. In parallel, scientific results and procedures are presented at international conferences and published in scientific journals. Partners keep in touch and share information through the sharepoint.
Both primary and secondary target groups are reached through newsletters, articles, manuals, interviews, press releases, website, promotional material and press moments. Many of this communication goes through the intermediate target groups.
An up-to -date website will be designed to communicate the results of the MEMO project to the stakeholders and the public.
The MEMO newsletter, with data on the project, important events, focus articles towards a certain group of stakeholders (both vulgarizing and scientific), and announcements on meetings and workshops, is supported by a professional communication agency and published 2 times per year. The newsletter is mainly distributed electronically, but a limited number of tri-lingual hardcopies are distributed by regular mail to public places to reach a larger audience. A special effort is done to reach fishermen, tourists, and other local actors in the 2 seas region.
Interested parties can subscribe to the newsletter via the web-tool.
Communication to the wider public is via digital sources such as website, digital documents, radio and TV (press moments), but also through the distribution of paper versions of the newsletter in public places. Specific information for individual interest groups is spread through meetings, workshops, personal contacts and reports. Governments and the Interreg Secretary remain informed of all events of the MEMO project. Communication is also done outside the 2 Seas region, in a limited amount, but focuses mainly within it.
All partners are involved in the design, development and further communication and dissemination of the results of the project. Each partner focuses specifically on the target groups in their own country.