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Laboratoire d'Ecogéochimie des Environnements Benthiques
UMR 8222

Benthic ecology course

Erasmus Mundus

Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

Functioning of coastal Mediterranean Ecosystems

Université Pierre et Marie Curie

Master des Sciences et Technologies- Spécialité OEM


 From the 5th September to the 14th October 2011, 6 weeks: 12 credits


Power point introduction (2011)


Key words: Coastal Ecosystem Functioning, Bentho-pelagic coupling, Experimental design, Human Threats


 Objectives :

Coastal ecosystems are some of the most productive but also vulnerable ecosystems of the world. Global changes are characterized by a myriad of little changes affecting habitats and diversity. The Mediterranean sea is a good laboratory for studying these changes, because they are largely amplified in comparison to other marine coastal areas. Nevertheless, to fully understand consequences and impacts of these changes on such complex systems, a deep knowledge of the processes controlling coastal ecosystem functioning is necessary.

This course covers concepts of marine ecology and biological oceanography.  Pelagic and benthic ecosystems are studied experimentally, by the mean of observations in the field, laboratory experiments and by applied modelling. The practical laboratory works allow students to use modern methods of environmental analysis (GCMS, DNA fingerprints...). A strong emphasis is put on the dynamic of the coupling between pelagic and benthic ecosystems, predominant in coastal areas.  



 General course information

This course is intended for students who want to embrace an academic career as well as those who intend to be involved in environmental management of the littoral and need a good knowledge of coastal ecosystem functioning. This course provides a good background for anyone you want to study benthic ecology whether  in coastal systems or in more particular environments such as hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, deep sea fans, sunken woods.....

By the end of the course students will know :

What are the main processes that govern marine ecosystem functioning in coastal waters;         

How marine organisms affect these processes;

What is the influence of physical conditions;

How human activity may impact the functioning of coastal ecosytems;

How to study the bentho pelagic coupling in coastal ecosytems.


Lectures and lab works are organised in order to address 3 fundamental questions

QUESTION 1: What control coastal primary productivity in coastal waters?

QUESTION 2: Does benthic organisms have en effect of the whole functioning of  coastal ecosytems?

QUESTION 3: What is the fate of the OM derived from phytoplankton in the sediments?


 Teaching method:

Some lectures & conferences

3 main practical lab works involving experiments and analyses

PW1: Impact of nutrients on phytoplankton and bacterial communities.

PW2: Response of the benthic compartment to a pulse of fresh OM using mesocosm experiments : fluxes at the benthic boundary layer and organic matter degradation

PW3: Energetic budget of a suspension feeder bivalves, the blue mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis.

Some demonstrations in the classroom (sedimentation & diffusion processes)

Field cruise on RV Nereis, Visite of Salses Leucate Lagoon, Dive in the Bay of Banyuls sanctuary & Visite of the arboretum


 Student assignments:

Carry out experiments to test hypothesis

Perform chemical & biochemical analyses

Analyse results and gather scientific data in order to analyse their results

Prepare oral presentations to present the results of their lab works

Individual and collective work to propose a conceptual model of coastal ecosytem modelling



Oral presentation of the personal project and a written examination



    audrey.pruski @




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