Benthic Ecology and Environmental Solutions

Principal Investigator:
Francisco Arenas

The Benthic Ecology and Environmental Solutions team is dedicated to the study of benthic communities and their interactions on aquatic ecosystems, from the extensive seabed, including transitional systems, to other aquatic realms. We also focus on fomenting Nature-Based solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, ensuring ecosystem sustainability and their services provision. Our research objectives include:

  • Uncovering biodiversity patterns in aquatic benthic communities and analysing how they change over time and space, including the scale-dependent nature of these changes. This way, we aim to understand the underlying ecological drivers that impact biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems.
  • Investigating the effects of global and local stressors on aquatic ecosystems, including their synergistic or non-synergistic interactions, by examining assemblages’ structural and functional changes. Along with new environmental conditions, different responses are expected depending on species tolerances and interactions. Such new diversity scenarios can substantially modify ecosystem-level aggregate functions such as energy fluxes or stability. Impacts from multiple interacting stressors cannot be predicted from knowledge of single stressors effects, which could underestimate forecasts.
  • Developing tools to predict diversity scenarios and ecosystem responses to multiple and synergetic stressors like climate change, biological invasions and emergent contaminants exposure. We aim to integrate information from experimental studies on direct functional responses and vulnerability to environmental drivers and/or anthropogenic factors into different modeling approaches to improve forecasts on habitat/species vulnerability to inform aquatic systems conservation and management.
  • Identify and apply environmental solutions that rely on the value of Nature, protecting and promoting natural resources for a sustainable future. We aim to explore different approaches for conservation and restoration, such as preserving habitat-forming species, constructing wetlands, creating green roofs, and other innovative solutions.


Benthic Ecology and Environmental Solutions Co-PI: Marina Dolbeth



Publications Highlights

J. de Azevedo, J.N. Franco, C.G. Vale, M.F.L. Lemos, F. Arenas. (2023). Rapid tropicalization evidence of subtidal seaweed assemblages along a coastal transitional zone. Scientific Reports, 13 (1), 11720.  

C.G. Vale, F. Arenas, R. Barreiro, C. Piñeiro‐Corbeira. (2021). Understanding the local drivers of beta‐diversity patterns under climate change: The case of seaweed communities in Galicia, North West of the Iberian Peninsula. Diversity and Distributions, 27 (9), 1696-1705.  

M. Ilarri, A.T. Souza, E. Dias, C. Antunes. (2022). Influence of climate change and extreme weather events on an estuarine fish community. Science of The Total Environment, 827, 154190.  

D.Y. Koseoglu-Imer, H.V. Oral, C.S.C. Calheiros, P. Krzeminski, S. Güçlü, S. A. Almeida, J. Surmacz-Górska, E. Plaza, P. Samaras, P. M. Binder, E.D. van Hullebusch, A. Devolli. (2023). Current challenges and future perspectives for the full circular economy of water in European countries. Journal of Environmental Management, 345, 118627.  

M. Dolbeth, D.A. Costa, M. Meyer, J.A. Gonçalves, A. Bio. (2023). Characterisation and Dynamics of an Emerging Seagrass Meadow. Remote Sensing, 15 (16), 4086.  

M. Dolbeth, O. Babe, D.A. Costa, A.P. Mucha, P.G. Cardoso, F. Arenas. (2021). Benthic estuarine communities' contribution to bioturbation under the experimental effect of marine heatwaves. Scientific Reports, 11 (1), 11422.

H. Morais, F. Arenas, C. Cruzeiro, S. Galante-Oliveira, P.G. Cardoso. (2023). Combined effects of climate change and environmentally relevant mixtures of endocrine disrupting compounds on the fitness and gonads' maturation dynamics of Nucella lapillus. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 190, 114841.