Welcome to the METABARPARK Project website. The project aims to apply the new high throughput sequencing technologies to characterize benthic communities in the Spanish Marine National Parks using environmental DNA (metabarcoding). Our main objective is to characterize the hidden biodiversity which is usually overlooked by traditional methods. We will also try to assess the community impacts of invasive seaweeds.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Metabarpark at the meeting "Developing new genetic tools for bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems in Europe"

Metabarpark was present at the meeting on metabarcoding held in Essen (Germany) in March 7th-9th 2017. This was the kick-off conference of the European Union COST action DNAqua-Net (http://dnaqua.net/).

This project aims at integrating a group of researchers across disciplines with the task to identify gold-standard genomic tools and novel eco-genomic indices and metrics for routine application for biodiversity assessments and biomonitoring of European water bodies. It also envisages training and dissemination activities. The objectives of Metabarpark are fully compatible with the goals of DNAqua-Net and we wanted to be counted in and contribute.

Xavier Turon is one of the Spanish members of DNAqua-Net and attended this conference, where ca. 200 researchers gathered together to present results, discuss hot topics, and delineate the way forward for achieving a wide acceptance by management bodies of genetic methods for biodiversity assessment in the European context.

Xavier presented the communication "Under the canopy: community-wide effects of invasive algae in marine protected areas revealed by metabarcoding", by Xavier Turon, Owen Wangensteen, Emma Cebrian and Creu Palacín. In this contribution the main results concerning the effects of three invasive algae (Caulerpa cylindracea and Lophocladia lallemandii in Cabrera, and Asparagopsis armata in the Atlantic) on the benthic communities were exposed. We have also drafted and sent a manuscript for publication with these results. This contribution is also the first result of the collaboration between the National Park projects Metabarpark and Corclim.

The logo of DNAqua-Net




A heatmap representation of the samples of communities with and without Asparagopsis armata from Cíes Islands, separated by invasion status (green: non-invaded, red: invaded) and fraction (blue: macrobenthos; turquoise: meiobenthos)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Metabarpark at the meeting "Jornadas de Investigación en la Red de Parques Nacionales 2016”


On October, 18 to 20, 2016 the meeting “Jornadas de Investigación en la Red de Parques Nacionales 2016” was held in the National Park of Tablas de Daimiel in Ciudad Real. This meeting gathered together staff from the OAPN central services, from the different National Parks, members of the Scientific Committee of the OAPN, and researchers that are developing projects in the National Park Network. The results of 13 projects corresponding to the 2013 call were presented in public talks, and there were also technical talks about programs currently underway in the Parks Network.

Xavier Turon gave a talk about the Metabarpark project, presenting the main findings and highlighting the potential of the genetic information for mid- and long- term biomonitoring of the communities.

This meeting has been a very good occasion for sharing experiences and discussing with colleagues and Park managers. Among the attendants were the staff from the Atlantic Islands Park (Pepín, Mercedes, Vicente), and many other acquaintances. It was such a pleasure to meet them all! I cannot resist mentioning also the fine gastronomy we enjoyed and the nice visit to the Tablas de Daimiel National Park that we did.

Family foto of the attendants to the meeting

Sunday, September 25, 2016

METABARPARK at the XIX Iberian Marine Biology Symposium

From 5th to 9th September the XIX Iberian Marine Biology Symposium was held in Porto (Portugal). It was organized by the CIIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research -, and gathered together ca. 180 scientists from Spain, Portugal, and some latin-american countries.

The webpage of the symposium is available http://siebmxixciimar.wixsite.com/business-conferenc-1

The Iberian meetings have been organized since 1978, and are an excellent opportunity for researchers in the Iberian zone to meet, exchange ideas, and present ongoing projects and results.

Three members of Metabarpark (Owen Wangensteen, Creu Palacín, and Xavier Turon) attended the meeting. They presented the oral contribution "Wangensteen, Guardiola, Palacín, Turon: Molecular biodiversity assessment of marine hard-bottom communities from Spanish National Parks by metabarcoding of COI and 18S" where a summary of the main findings of the Metabarpark project was given. The presentation raised a lot of interest among the audience, as shown in the questions posed after the talk and the many interactions that followed during the meeting.

Xavier Turon also presented a plenary conference, entitled "Twenty-five years of genetic studies of the Iberian benthos: retrospect and prospect". Needless to say, metabarcoding was among the main techniques highlighted during this talk.

The nice logo of the XIX SIEBM
We had a good and fun time in Porto, we made interesting contacts for future metabarcoding studies. We are looking forward to the next Iberian Meeting, to be held in Faro in 2018!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Metabarcoding reveals significant differences in communities with and without invasive seaweeds

While the data corresponding to the 2015 collecting trips are being analysed, we would like to share the first results concerning the communities sampled with and without invasive algae. In the Cíes Island, we compared the photophilous community with Cystoseira nodicaulis (natural assemblage) with equivalent communities with the introduced Asparagopsis armata. In Cabrera, we sampled in the same walls photophilous natural assemblages as well as communities dominated by Lophocladia lallemandii, while at deeper waters we sampled the natural sciaphilous community and Caulerpa cylindracea-dominated patches.

We identified with the gene 18S 2937 MOTUs in these communities. Our statistical analyses showed clear qualitative and quantitative differences between assemblages with and without the invasive seaweeds. While this was expected for the bigger size fractions, even for the smallest fraction (i.e., organisms between 1 mm and 65 microns) the differences were significant. This rich component of the biodiversity cannot be efficiently assessed with conventional methods, while genetic techniques have allowed its quantification and analysis.

Thus, metabarcoding revealed community shifts affecting even the small-sized meio-organisms (animals, algae, and protists) at very reduced spatial scales (tens of meters). The presence of invasive algae has therefore profound effects in community structure at all levels. This is one of the several interesting outcomes we are finding with our data, more soon!
This spatial representation (Multidimensional Scaling) allows the visualization of the differences between the sampled communities linked to the presence of invasive seaweeds




The methods developed in METABARPARK explained in an international book chapter




Owen Wangensteen and Xavier Turon have been invited to write a chapter in the book "Marine Animal Forests. The Ecology of Benthic Biodiversity Hotspots", of the Springer International Publishing Company (ISBN: 978-3-319-17001-5), which is edited by Sergio Rossi, Lorenzo Bramanti, Andrea Gori and Covadonga Orejas.

In this chapter, entitled "Metabardoding techniques for assessing biodiversity of marine animal forests", Owen and Xavier explain the methods developed in METABARPARK to work with hard bottom communities using metabarcoding. We believe that it is crucial to setup standardized protocols, and that this book can be an excellent platform to share and disseminate our experience with the different steps of the metabarcoding process. 

This chapter has been sent out for editorial process, and we foresee that it will be published in the forthcoming months.


Techniques developed in METABARPARK, such as the size fractionation of the samples, can be adopted by other teams working on metabarcoding of marine benthos


METABARPARK at the workshop “Application of genomic tools for benthic monitoring”


The 4-5 April 2016, the Natural History Museum of Geneva (Switzerland) hosted the workshop “application of genomic tools for benthic monitoring of marine environment: from technology to legal and socio-economic aspects”, organised by Prof. Jan Pawlowski of the University of Geneva (http://goo.gl/forms/V9bLHtyJBk).

The workshop was intended as a forum for the exchange of ideas about the potential of environmental DNA (eDNA)-related techniques for assessing biodiversity and the impact of human activities on it. It was attended by environmental professionals, members of regulating bodies, and scientists.

The presentations and discussion were very lively, and the overarching idea is that DNA-derived indicators may be effectively used in the field of environmental monitoring (as they are in other applied sciences). However, more development and standardization is necessary before they can be integrated with- or substitute altogether- current techniques using morphology-based indicators, which are slow, time-consuming, and reliant on a worlwide dwindling taxonomic expertise.

Xavier Turon and Owen Wangensteen contributed to the workshop with the talk “Issues in metabarcoding of marine benthos”, where they pinpointed some conflicting issues, such as the use of DNA vs RNA, the choice between 18S rDNA or COI markers, or the use of a fixed vs a variable threshold for clustering sequences into MOTUs. The talk was illustrated with results obtained in the project METABARPARK.


Xavier Turon and Tom Wilding, of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, at the entrance of the Natural History Museum, with a lovely pet!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Working with the data


We processed the samples, extracted the DNA and amplified the barcoding genes for the second sampling (2015) performed at each site. We received the sequences in November (for the COI gene) and December (for the 18S gene). So we have now all genetic data of the samplings done in 2014 and 2015 in Cíes Islands and the Cabrera Archipelago.

In the last months we have been busy working with the bioinformatic analyses of such a huge amount of data. We had to adapt and improve existing pipelines, write code ourselves, and check different approaches at each step of the process.

Now we are drafting our first manuscript for publication with the results of the first samplings with biodiversity assessment and community comparisons within and between the Parks. We have also assembled a large dataset with all sequences obtained in 2014 and 2015 that is currently being analysed to assess temporal changes in the community structure in both Parks. We hope to come up with interesting results soon!