Norway's hidden marine biodiversity: The hunt for cryptic species within the coralline algae.

Despite their ubiquity, the species diversity and distribution patterns of coralline algae are poorly known by ecologists, and even by specialist phycologists. The aim of the project is to use molecular systematic methods to unravel patterns of coralline algal diversity and distribution along the Norwegian coast.

cryptic species that hide in coralline algae are a part of norways hidden biodiversity.

Photo: Stein Fredriksen

About the project

Despite their ubiquity, the species diversity and distribution patterns of coralline algae are poorly known by ecologists, and even by specialist phycologists. The aim of the project is to use molecular systematic methods to unravel patterns of coralline algal diversity and distribution along the Norwegian coast. It involves detection of potential cryptic and new species, studies of coralline species in relation to specific habitats/nature type, and how observed local diversity patterns might scale up to regional or global patterns.

Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to unravel patterns of coralline algal diversity and distribution along the Norwegian coast. Sub goals are to:

  • uncover how common cryptic species are among the widely distributed coralline algae along the Norwegian coast
  • provide knowledge on how coralline species responds to environmental factors, both with respect to occurrence, mode of life (unattached, encrusting) and morphology
  • provide new knowledge on which species that form maerl beds in different ecoregions along the Norwegian coast

Background

Despite a comprehensive historic record (back to the 1850- 1900ies) from the Norwegian coast, coralline algae remain at the species level a poorly known group for Norway. The taxonomy of coralline algae is complicated and their identification mainly relies on morphological characters that are influenced by environmental factors and their mode of life (free- living or attached to rock, stone, animals or plants). The group occurs in many different habitats and along several wide environmental gradients in Norwegian waters (shallow-deep areas, lowhigh latitudes, outer-inner coastal areas, low-high wave exposure, weak-strong current speed) that may influence the coralline algae species occurrence and morphology. There is little knowledge on how these environmental conditions affect the species’ distribution and morphology, and to what extent morphological similar species actually are different species, or whether dissimilar morphology or mode of life are common among certain species.

Cooperation

NIVA, UiO, Artsdatabanken, IMR, University of Maine USA, MNHN France, Plymouth University UK, Ghent University Belgium
Tags: Marine botany, benthic ecology, coralline algae, morphology, barcoding
Published Feb. 9, 2017 4:04 PM - Last modified Mar. 17, 2017 3:45 PM

Contact

Led by NIVA, UiO is partner.