In this proposal we seek to apply both classical and new (derived from Next Generation Sequencing technologies) genetic tools to three challenges identified within the framework of benthic marine research. This proposal represents a step forward in the already long endeavour of the two applicant groups to develop and apply molecular techniques to the study of the benthos.
Our emphasis is on oriented research and we aim at developing the best available tools and generating new information to address the following challenges: (i) to tackle and mitigate the problem of introduced species, (ii) to develop new tools for biodiversity assessment, (iii) to predict foreseeable changes in a scenario of increasing temperature. These three challenges constitute the three objectives of the proposal.
For the first one we plan to study two recent invaders that constitute pests in the bivalve cultures of the Ebro Delta, combining genetic and ecological approaches, with the goal of providing guidance and advice to mitigate their negative effects.
For the second challenge we want to develop new methods based on environmental DNA to determine the biodiversity of benthic communities with a level of precision and repeatability so far unattainable. We also wish to analyse genetically changes in populations over space and time and relate them to environmental factors.
The third challenge will involve the generation and analysis of genome wide scans of ecologically relevant species (engineer species and endemic species). We wish to identify polymorphisms related to adaptation to different temperature regimes and thus to be able to predict future trends of these landscape important species in the context of continued warming. Some of these objectives will represent applications of stilldeveloping techniques, so we expect to contribute not only in generating data, but also in developing new methods that can be applied to other fields. Aside from continuing our involvement in publishing our results in top scientific journals, we will put particular emphasis in translating the results to stakeholders and local enterprises in the form of management guidance, reports, establishment of repeatable protocols and setting up of baseline datasets for future studies. We are also committed to the dissemination of the results to the general public and to raise awareness about some of the pressures faced by our littoral systems.