Marine Biodiversity

and Climate Change

The MarClim project is the most spatio-temporally extensive time-series for intertidal systems globally. MarClim surveys track the abundance and distribution of 87 species of invertebrates and macroalgae at 100 sites around the UK Regional Seas and northern France on an annual basis. The project has recorded some of the fastest distributional shifts in leading and trailing range edges of species in any natural system. MarClim is one of the MBA long-term time-series which span over half a century.

This work has been extended to other temperate regions around the world including Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. We are interested in identifying the biological mechanisms and changes in gene expression occuring in invertebrates and macroalgae that underpin the macroecological responses to climate warming and ocean acidification. To develop this line of research the genome of every MarClim species is being sequenced as part of the MBA’s role in the Darwin Tree of Life Project. Current research using combined laboratory and field experiments is investigating how increasing temperatures and ocean acidification are altering reproductive cycles, impacting performance and recruitment, and identifying the effects of climate change on invasive capabilities of non-natives.

Our Research Impacts


Assessing native intertidal biodiversity

MarClim data have been developed as Good Environmental Status indicators for the UK Marine Strategy. These indicators have been designed to assess the ‘maintain native intertidal biodiversity’ target and developed as the UK Intertidal Community Temperature Index (CTI), a measure of the status of a community in terms of its species composition of coldwater (boreal) and warmwater (lusitanian) species. These indicators are used to assess progress against the following target, which is set in the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: Maintain native intertidal biodiversity (HM Government, 2012). 

Protecting a Special Area of Conservation

A survey of biological indicators of ecological effects of Tributyltin (TBT) release sometime in 2015 to 2016 in the Yealm Estuary, south Devon by the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) was commissioned by the Environment Agency (EA) on 28th November 2022. The report was used in subsequent legal proceedings which led to a fine for multi-national owned International Paint Ltd. for allowing the banned chemical to enter the Site of Special Scientific Interest designated Yealm estuary in Devon. 

Key Publications

Shoreline sentinels of global change show the consequences of extreme events – Global Change Biology

Impacts of Pervasive Climate Change and Extreme Events on Rocky Intertidal Communities Frontiers 

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Genome sequence for the thick topshell, Phorcus lineatus (da Costa, 1778) – Wellcome Open Research 

Latest Projects

The Marine Biodiversity and Climate Change Project

MarClim has the most spatio-temporally extensive time-series of rocky intertidal systems globally. Eighty seven species of invertebrate and macroalgae of boreal, Lusitanian, and invasive origins are surveyed at one hundred sites around the coastlines of the UK and northern France and surveyed every year. MarClim has shown some of the fastest biogeographic range shifts in response to climate change in any natural system. The data are used by Natural Resources Wales and Natural England and form part of Condition Assessments for MPAs. 

The Darwin Tree of Life Project

The Darwin Tree of Life project aims to sequence the genomes of 70,000 species of eukaryotic organisms in Britain and Ireland. It is a collaboration between biodiversity, genomics and analysis partners that is transforming the way we do biology, conservation, and biotechnology. The Darwin Tree of Life Project is one of several initiatives across the globe working towards the ultimate goal of sequencing all complex life on Earth, in a venture known as the Earth BioGenome Project. The Marine Biological Association is the lead Genome Acquisition Laboratory for marine species. 

FutureMARES

FutureMARES is an EU-funded research project examining the relations between climate change, marine biodiversity, and ecosystem services. The project’s activities are designed around two Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and one Nature-inclusive Harvesting (NIH). We are conducting our research and cooperating with marine organisations and the public in five regions across the globe. Our goal is to provide science-based policy advice on how best to use NBS/NIH to protect future biodiversity and ecosystem services in a future climate. The MarClim time-series is one of the biological time-series being used in the project. 


Our Team

Nova

Dr Nova Mieszkowska

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Nova Mieszkowska

Senior Research Fellow

Nova

nova@mba.ac.uk

My international research programme focuses on species and ecosystem-level responses to environmental change and multiple stressors in the marine environment, embedding small-scale, process-oriented experimental studies within larger scale macroecological investigations. This approach focuses on individual organisms via experimental physiological ecology and ecological genomics, integrating to the population level with long-term time-series data collection, analysis and modelling to identify mechanisms of species response. I am the principal investigator for the Marine Biodiversity & Climate Change Project (MarClim), which has the most spatio-temporally extensive time-series of rocky intertidal systems globally. MarClim has shown some of the fastest biogeographic range shifts in response to climate change in any natural system. I have also been involved with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in various capacities for more than a decade. My science-policy knowledge exchange work includes provision of field survey and monitoring data and assessments of ecosystem status, contributions to national and international policy drivers, authorship on national reports including the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership Annual Report Cards, and presenting to UK government and EU bodies. I have developed indicators of Good Environmental Status for implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in intertidal and subtidal habitats around the UK.

Research Group: Marine Biodiversity and Climate Change

Patrick Adkins

Patrick Adkins, MRes

Darwin Tree of Life Collections Officer.

Patrick Adkins, MRes

Darwin Tree of Life Collections Officer.

Patrick Adkins

patadk@mba.ac.uk

I’m a research assistant on the Darwin Tree of Life project who specialises in marine invertebrate identification and collection. Primarily crustacea, echinodermata and various vermiform phyla. I take part in fieldwork and offshore boat work most of the year as well as the processing and preservation of tissues in preparation for genomic work. I am a graduate of Plymouth University courses in Marine Biology and Oceanography (BSc) and Applied Marine science (MRes). The main focus for my MRes thesis was looking at the epifaunal communities living on macroalgae and how they differ between native species and the non-native Sargassum muticum. Before coming to the Marine Biological Association I worked for a year in a benthic laboratory for a consultancy company. My next major goal is to undertake a PhD, potentially to look at the evolution of introduced species in their new ranges when compared to their native ranges, but as someone who is interested in pretty much everything that may change!

Freja Azzopardi standing in labcoat with specimen

Freja Azzopardi MSci

Darwin Tree of Life Research Technician

Freja Azzopardi MSci

Darwin Tree of Life Research Technician

Freja Azzopardi standing in labcoat with specimen

freazz@mba.ac.uk

My role is to collect, identify amd process marine organisms (specialising in fishes), culture protist and fungal strains and analyse genomic DNA. I have had a passion for the ocean and the life it supports for as long as I can remember having spent many summers in the warm, blue waters of Malta – my fathers homeland – searching for all the creatures I could find. I learned to SCUBA dive and went on to become a diving professional which allowed me to share this passion with others. I undertook an MSci Marine Biology with Oceanography degree at the University of Southampton where I became interested in marine vertebrate ecology and conservation. There I volunteered in the Stable Isotope Ecology Lab. and processed fish samples, contributing to a paper by my third year (Bell et al., 2021). My masters project supervised by Professor David Sims here at the MBA, investigated oceanic pelagic shark movement in the North Atlantic and their overlap with longline fishing using satellite tracking and fisheries catch data and was awarded the Tyler Peize (2022). In the future I wish to develop my experience in ocean predator ecology, conservation and governance by working with organisations and undertaking a PhD.

Belle Heaton smiling on the rocky shore

Belle Heaton MRes

Research Technician

Belle Heaton MRes

Research Technician

Belle Heaton smiling on the rocky shore

belhea@mba.ac.uk

I am a research technician working mainly with the Coastal Ecology research groups. I work mainly on Nova Mieszkowska’s team, helping with both fieldwork surveys and the processing and identification of marine organisms. I also work as part of the aquarist team to help maintain the condition of the Research Aquarium and ensure good health of the resident marine organisms.

I have previously been on a placement year (2018-2019) during my undergraduate degree (Marine Biology and Oceanography) within the MBA working within the Outreach Team. I was subsequently employed briefly by the MBA (2019) to help promote the opening of the National Marine Park.

I now have an MRes in Applied Marine Science, which focused on the effects of Magallana gigas (Pacific Oysters) on macrobenthic biodiversity within estuaries of the Southwest, UK. I feel extremely lucky to work at the MBA and I wish to further build upon my coastal ecology and taxonomic knowledge. I am intrigued to see how the Pacific Oyster story unfolds within the UK and in the future would potentially pursue further research into the species.

I love going gym, swimming, snorkelling, climbing and hiking so Plymouth has been kind of perfect for me the past few years. I look forward to the new opportunities and surprises that await me within this new job role.

Rebekkah Uhl standing in lab coat with research equipment

Rebekka Uhl BSc MRes

Darwin Tree of Life Research Technician

Rebekka Uhl BSc MRes

Darwin Tree of Life Research Technician

Rebekkah Uhl standing in lab coat with research equipment

rebuhl@mba.ac.uk

I am a research technician for the Darwin Tree of Life project and am responsible for collecting, identifying and sometimes culturing marine specimen, as well as carrying out DNA barcoding for molecular identification. I completed my BSc in Biology at the University of St Andrews, where I worked on my dissertation with Prof David Paterson, studying benthic diatom locomotion and how their speed and extracellular polymeric substance composition is influenced by external stressors. Subsequently I completed an MRes where I was working on identifying the function of a carbohydrate processing enzyme, HexD. I moved to Plymouth to satiate my interests in marine biology, working for the husbandry team at the National Marine Aquarium before the MBA. I have a big interest in marine life, in particular the smaller easily missed things that are often spectacular. In my free time, I am also a keen climber and sea swimmer!