Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action RISE - CoastCarb


Picture credit: Francesca Pasotti


The multidisciplinary network CoastCarb (‘Coastal ecosystem carbon balance in times of rapid glacier melt’) joins experts in Subantarctic coastal system ecology and ecological modelling to create a knowledge information system with open access data portal and produce dynamic ecosystem models for fjordic and estuarine environments. The established network is based on German, Belgian, Dutch, British, Polish, Argentine, Chilean, Canadian and US participants. CoastCarb secondments foster capacity building in research and observation for a better understanding of complex ecosystem processes and major hazard scenarios (e.g. harmful algal blooms), and in targeted science stakeholder interaction events. The project is coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany. Dr. Ulrike Braeckman, post-doctoral researcher in the Marine Biology Research Group led by Prof. dr. Ann Vanreusel, co-coordinates CoastCarb work package 4.

Project description

Climate change and intensifying human resource use are causing massive changes to Subantarctic coastal systems and carbon cycling. At the same time, these systems house benthic communities of highest biomass and biodiversity, which sustain important ecosystem services and require strategic observation and management plans. Although they are just beginning to be appreciated by scientists and public, natural (climate mitigation) and cultural ecosystem services (e.g. local fisheries, tourism, sustainable aquaculture) are already jeopardized by the massive scale
and velocity of the regional change in Southern Patagonia (SP) and at the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Using data on carbon budgets and flow (including benthic and pelagic food webs, microbes to megafauna) from across the CoastCarb network, specialists will analyse the relationships between ecosystem services, local stakeholders and communities, to identify barriers and enablers of the sustainable use of marine resources. Study areas along the fragmented SP/WAP coastline are intensively investigated. Data sets from more than 10 recent interdisciplinary research projects of CoastCarb participants, and from the scientific core programmes at coastal stations (ARG-GER Carlini-Dallmann, US Palmer, UK Rothera, PL Arctowski) will be used for knowledge compilation.


These are the overall objectives of CoastCarb:

  • to organize the transfer of knowledge between European and Non-European partners to establish a unified high-quality long-term measuring program to understand carbon cycling in subpolar coastal environments, and
  •  to solidify the collaboration between long-standing partners from previous actions and to integrate new partners and countries into a sustainable scientific exchange network.

To reach these aims, CoastCarb has five specific objectives (Obj) that will be pursued by five work packages (WP):

  • Obj 1 - Data and Information System (DIS): Compile a geo-referenced data information system for SP and WAP coastal change, including abiotic environmental factors, disturbance levels, and mapping coastal biosphere (WP1).
  • Obj 2 - Ecosystem Modelling: Develop a carbon flux model for SP/WAP coastal fjords and estuaries, considering different ecosystem processes such as carbon sequestration (production, coastal runoff fluxes, deposition and burial) and mobilization (bioturbation, remineralization, transport processes) (WP2).
  • Obj 3 – Species Metrics & Multiple Stressors: Parameterise the response of coastal biosphere (key species, groups, key communities) to environmental change for different focal areas along SP and the WAP. Identify and fill present data gaps (WP3).
  • Obj 4 - Ecosystem Change and Carbon Storage: Develop a coastal status classification scheme (dynamic mapping of carbon sink and source areas) (WP4).
  • Obj 5 - Ecosystem Services, Food Security and Public Engagement: Contribute to the analysis of ecosystem service changes, sustainable management and public engagement (WP5)

Role of Ghent University

Ghent University leads one of the five work packages and organizes workshops and one of the three general assemblies. Ghent University further provides expertise to CoastCarb partners in Antarctic biodiversity, sedimentary nutrient, carbon and oxygen fluxes and trophic chain analysis with biochemical markers.



to be announced soon


Prof. dr. Ann Vanreusel
Department Biology – Marine Biology Research Group
Phone number: +32 9 264 85 29