CRYPTO – Molecular Identification Of Cryptogenic Macroalgae With Invasive Potential In The Azores

PROJECT TITLE:

CRYPTO – Molecular Identification Of Cryptogenic Macroalgae With Invasive Potential In The Azores

PROJECT CODE:

ACORES-01-0145-FEDER-000091

MAIN GOAL:

Non-indigenous species (NIS) represent a water quality descriptor within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for being a great threat to biodiversity. The Azores presents 26 species of marine macroalgae identified as NIS, twice the global trend. With six coherently articulated tasks, the CRYPTO Project targets the detection of NIS among the 40 cryptogenic algae in the Azores, the evaluation of their respective invasive risks and increase quality scientific production and oriented to smart specialisation.

The CRYPTO Project aims at assessing the origin, distribution and risk of potentially invasive algae, based on the application of advanced techniques such as DNA barcoding and ocean modeling. The outcomes of this project will contribute to environmental targets specified in the regional Program of Measures within the MSFD, benefitting the conservation of unique Azorean ecosystems.

BENEFICIARIES: Universidade dos Açores, Fundação Gaspar Frutuoso e Sociedade Afonso Chaves

TOTAL AMOUNT: 179.998,13 €

EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND: 152.998,41 €

DESCRIPTION:

The presence of non-indigenous species (NIS), introduced or facilitated by human activities, is one of the greatest modern threats to marine biodiversity [1], presenting potential impacts on biodiversity, economy and public health [2].

The European Union (EU)'s Marine Strategy Framework Directive [3], within which Member States shall achieve or maintain good environmental status by 2020, established 11 descriptors for water quality, with one of them specifically regarding the level of NIS introduced by human activities (descriptor 2, D2), and four other descriptors that influence or are influenced by D2 [4].

When a species is not evidently native or introduced, it is referred to as cryptogenic, a common occurrence with important consequences for understanding biological invasions [5].

The subregion Azores, which comprises 30% of the EU exclusive economic zone [4], has 26 species of macroalgae or 6% of its marine flora [6] that are identified as NIS, which is twice the global average. This number may increase once the origin of 40 other species that are classified as cryptogenic is clarified [6]. Since many potentially invasive species are currently categorized as cryptogenic, resolving their status is imperative to evaluate their ecological impact [7] and to develop management plans.

Over the past two decades, molecular techniques have been developed and improved to solidify taxonomic identification of marine macroalgae, not only facilitating new species discoveries and their phylogenetic assessments [8], but also assisting in the clarification of cryptogenic taxa and the identification of population sources and vectors [1]. To investigate the patterns of genetic diversity and assess the origin and/or distribution of a given population, DNA barcode sequences are used to determine haplotype frequencies and their geographical distribution, and to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among the observed haplotypes [9].

Complementary approaches such as historical documentation of marine traffic [10] and Ocean Biophysical Modeling, can be used to simulate the natural dispersion over the time scales of human travel [1] or the possible dispersion through floating marine debris over the last century (considering that 60–80% is comprised of plastic) [11].

With six coherently articulated tasks, the CRYPTO Project targets assessing the origin, distribution and risk of potentially invasive algae, based on the application of DNA barcoding, phylogenetic reconstructions, haplotype networks and phylogeographic analyses, coupled with historical assessment and ocean modeling. The outcomes of this project will contribute to address the EU Horizon 2020’s societal challenge “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials”, aiming at the protection of the environment and the conservation of unique Azorean ecosystems.

1 - Dawson, M.N. et al. (2005). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(34), 11968-11973.

2 - CBD (2010). Document UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/X/2. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

3 - EC (2008). Official Journal of the European Union, 164, 19-40.

4 - SRRN (2014). Estratégia Marinha para a subdivisão dos Açores. Secretaria Regional dos Recursos Naturais.

5 - Geoffroy, A. et al. (2016). Ecology and evolution, 6(16), 5635-5647.

6 - Micael, J. et al. (2014). Helgoland marine research, 68(2), 209.

7 - Yund, P.O. et al. (2015). The Biological Bulletin, 228(3), 201-216.

8 - De Clerck, O. et al. (2013). Journal of Phycology, 49(2), 215-225.

9 - Gabriel, D. et al. (2015). Arquipélago-Life and Marine Sciences, 32, 1-9.

10 - Geller, J.B. et al. (2010). Annual Review of Marine Science, 2, 367-393.

11 - Lebreton, L.M. et al. (2012). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64(3), 653-661.

RESULTS:

1 Experts’ Workshop; 1 Online Meeting; 4 International Papers; 2 National papers, 4 Oral communications in Congresses; 1 Database; 1 Field guide; and 1 Project Website.

PHOTOGRAPHS: