Benthic ecosystems and environmental change

Research Area: Benthic communities and natural and anthropogenic impacts


Marine ecosystems are highly valuable to human societies, through the provision of ecological goods and services. They are, however, changing rapidly in the face of multiple concurrent stressors, such as seawater warming, ocean acidification, nutrient and pollution input, over-fishing and the spread of non-native species. Understanding how life in the sea is responding to global change is critical if we are to effectively manage and plan for further change and, ultimately, conserve precious living marine resources for future generations.


We are a young but steadily growing research group based at the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. We use a combination of traditional ecological techniques and innovative experimental approaches (lab and field) to better understand how life in the sea is changing, and to predict how it is likely to change in the future.


We try to do two things. First, we collaborate. We are ‘bucket and spade’ ecologists but we collaborate with microbiologists, virologists, physiologists, oceanographers and climate scientists. We also collaborate with like-minded researchers across Europe, Australia and elsewhere. We collaborate because complex systems and problems require complex approaches to better understand them. Second, we observe. Our team and our wider network of collaborators have spent countless days working in shallow-water marine ecosystems in recent years. We do this because appreciating spatial and temporal variability in ecological pattern and process is the first step to understanding human impacts on natural systems.

Contact Name: 
Dan Smale