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October 2015

Find out what's been happening across the Marine Ecosystems Research Programme (MERP). Many thanks to all who contributed articles to this edition.

Further information about these news items can be found on the MERP website, Twitter feed, in the MERP Biannual Report (June 2015) or by contacting the MERP Programme Office ( Please feel free to forward to others who may be interested in the work of MERP.

If you would like to submit any MERP-related news then please contact Kelly-Marie Davidson (

MERP meetings

Thank you to all who attended the Annual Science Meeting in Drymen, Scotland; it was a really useful meeting and the Ecosystem Services Workshop report is available from the MERP website. The next programme-wide meeting will be held in Manchester on 17th and 18th November 2015 and will take the form of an integrative workshop, with fieldwork updates and research discussions. Preceding the workshop (16th), there will also be the Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting. Further information can be found on the new MERP events calendar but if you have any questions in the meantime then please contact the Programme Officer, Jessica Heard (

Rockpool on the road

Before the summer, QUB was awarded funding from NERC's Summer of Science fund to create a "Rockpool Roadshow", which they took to stakeholders to promote engagement with MERP science. Dr Danny Barrios-O'Neill writes about their experience.

Sampling plankton in Plymouth

6-weekly sampling trips are being made offshore from Plymouth to collect plankton samples and develop our understanding of the size spectrum present throughout the year in the plankton. Dr Martin Lilley (QMUL) gives an account of the day and night sampling.

Density dependence of seabirds

Managing the effects of environmental change and anthropogenic pressures on marine ecosystems requires an understanding of how the population dynamics of species are influenced by different types of environmental variation and disturbance. Population processes, such as density dependence are key regulators of population abundance. Dr Kate Searle details how MERP scientists are using their research in this area to enable more effective prediction and management of marine ecosystems under pressure.

Cruise armada

The last few months have seen a whole host of MERP cruise activities including the RV Prince Madog cruise (Celtic Sea, 31st Aug - 27th Sept), a number of kelp transects (Plymouth, Oban, Anglesey and Belfast) and on-going Western English Channel mini cruises, with day and night benthic and pelagic sampling every 6-8 weeks. Currently the 'PELTIC' survey is at sea until early November, investigating predators/prey/physics interactions and the pelagic biomass spectrum. For the latest update from this cruise please see Dr John Pinnegar & Dr Jeroen van der Kooij's article on the MERP website.

Linking macroecology and models to ecosystem services (module 5)

This module has been working hard extending and clarifying ecosystem processes, services and benefits. If you are involved in the development of Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) indicators at present, we would really like to hear about it, so we can assess your indicator too. We hope from this paper to be able to suggest where indicators for ecosystem services are lacking in current MSFD assessments and where to focus future work. Please contact Dr Stefanie Broszeit (PML) to discuss MSFD work and for an update on module 5 please see the MERP website.

Size matters on the seabed

MERP scientists are using the 'size spectra' approach to help simplify ecosystem species data, to determine how human impacts, such as fishing pressure, are affecting marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Dr Leigh Howarth (BU)  describes how the fieldwork team went about this.

Protecting top predators

Understanding the factors determining the spatial and temporal distribution of marine top-predators (cetaceans and seabirds) remains a key research area, in particular with regard to predicting responses of these communities to both climate change and anthropogenic activities. Dr James Waggitt (BU) explains the MERP work being undertaken to increase understanding of these charismatic species.

Expert hearing at the European Parliament

The European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries invited MERP's Prof. Mike Heath (UoSt) to present his research on "An ecological approach to implementing the discard ban" to a hearing of experts entitled "How to improve selectivity in the context of the discard ban". Representatives of the Commission were highly interested and engaged in the proceedings.

Understanding biological checks and balances

Queen’s University Belfast we have been running experiments and conducting surveys to better understand biological checks and balances. Initial results suggest dried kelp may be of similar importance to food web dynamics as other food web components. This experiment is particularly noteworthy as one of the MERP aims is to determine the fate of dislodged kelp and its importance for other ecosystems. Read more about their mesocosm experiments from Dr Nate Geraldi (QUB) on the MERP website.

Image courtesy of George Evans

Origins of ecosystem services

The concept of ecosystems services has had a long and interdisciplinary history of development. Dr Nicola Beaumont (PML) reflects upon these developments and how MERP is integrating ecosystem services into its science.

Website biographies

Thank you to all those who have submitted their biography for the website. If you haven't already done so, please would you send your biography to for inclusion in MERP Scientists.

Useful links


Hyder K et al. (2015) Making modelling count - increasing the contribution of shelf-seas community and ecosystem models to policy development and management. Marine Policy. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.07.015

Sailley SF, Polimene L, Mitra A, Atkinson A, Allen JI. (2015) Impact of zooplankton food selectivity on plankton dynamics and nutrient cycling. Journal of Plankton Research. doi:10.1093/plankt/fbv020


MERP website

Don't forget to check the website for the latest news, events and social media activities at 

MERP participants can also access SharePoint and the Discussion Forum from the top right-hand corner of the MERP homepage.


MERP resources

A range of programme resources are now available from the website.

These include a leaflet, general powerpoint slides, 2-page summary for Defra and a directory of MERP participants.

Poster / presentation templates and logos can also be found in the MERP SharePoint.



MERP has a Twitter feed, which will be used to keep followers updated on news, events and progress of the programme.

We welcome your tweet suggestions so please send information on successes and achievement plus accompanying images and video to Helen Murray (

MERP partners

Bangor University (BU)
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool (NOC,L)
Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
Queens University Belfast (QUB)
Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS)
University of Glasgow (UoG)
University of Sheffield (UoSh)
University of Strathclyde (UoSt) 

Marine Ecosystems Research Programme is jointly funded by:

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