Credit: EMBL/Kinga Lubowiecka

Bringing together all sciences and countries to restore marine nature

Wednesday 15 Feb 23


Brian MacKenzie
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 45


Ken Haste Andersen
Professor, Head of Section
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 33 99


Martin Lindegren
Senior Researcher
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 92


Patrizio Mariani
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 33 53
A new major project on marine biodiversity spans national borders and scientific disciplines. DTU is one of 31 European research partners to form the science based effort to understand and help the ocean over the next 4 years – BIOcean5D has been kicked off.

BIOcean5D is the name of a major, ambitious European project where 31 research partners from 12 European countries from Finland to Greece have come together to contribute to a cross-disciplinary understanding of marine biodiversity and ecosystem mechanisms.

In January, the researchers from across Europe met at EMBL, The European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg to kick off BIOcean5D. 

“The project’s goal of combining genomic observations with advanced modelling and data analysis is very ambitious and has great potential,” says Ken Haste Andersen, Professor and DTU Aqua’s representative at the kick-off event.

The project is centred around the essential role that biodiversity plays in sustaining marine ecosystems. Such ecosystems are vital for planetary and human health, and yet large gaps in scientific knowledge and understanding remain. 

Recent surveys of marine ecosystems have revealed a lack of understanding about the abundance, function, and collective dynamics of marine biota, as well as documenting how environment conditions are changing at an exceptionally fast rate as a result of human activities. 

Across space, time, and human scales 

"We will be focusing on how processes related to trophic and community interactions, animal movements and connectivity affect global and regional variations in biodiversity."
Project coordinator at DTU Aqua, Professor Brian MacKenzie

The ‘5D’ in the project title stands for five dimensions of approaches to ocean science; the three dimensions of space, longitude, latitude and depth, time and the human factor. The aim is to holistically explore marine biodiversity from molecular to organismal levels – from viruses to mammals – across space, time, and human scales. 

Thus, the project encompasses many different disciplines. That means it is vital that people from different scientific backgrounds are able to come together, make sure they all speak the same language as well as having along the way a regular dialogue among the different partners and aspects of the project, explained Peer Bork, Director of EMBL Heidelberg, who organised the kick-off meeting. 

The Kick-off at EMBL in Heidelberg provided the first opportunity for participants to come together as a group. Through a series of presentations, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities, participants planned the operational details, including for example how data from different sampling sites are collected, analysed, and shared. 

DTU Aqua will contribute by developing new trait-based models and data analyses of biodiversity of fish and plankton, how it varies in time and space and how it is being influenced by human factors such as exploitation and climate change: 

“We will be focusing on how processes related to trophic and community interactions, animal movements and connectivity affect global and regional variations in biodiversity,” says project coordinator at DTU Aqua, Professor Brian MacKenzie.

Several sessions focused on the importance of agreed processes and standards on approaches to sampling and data systems, given the vast quantities of material that will be generated. 

BIOcean5D will create a digital foundation of multiscale biodiversity data and knowledge, and develop tools for monitoring, predicting, and protecting marine biodiversity and the essential role it plays. Such efforts will according to the project participants play a vital role in improving the existing, highly fragmented view of marine biodiversity.

4 years of combined expertise, mobile labs and citizen science

BIOcean5D will be rolled out over the next four years. As a project designed to boost an allround understanding of ocean life, BIOcean5D will take a range of approaches including the use of mobile labs, research vessels, including the Tara schooner, and citizen science tools. 

Thus, the ultimate aim to paint a holistic picture of pan-European marine coastal biodiversity and ecosystem services can succeed.

Colomban de Vargas, Research Director at CNRS/Sorbonne Université, is the BIOcean5D project deputy director and scientific project coordinator. He says: 

”BIOcean5D is all about marine biodiversity. One of our important novelties, and strengths, is combining the micro- and macro-biomes, and in this way covering the full organismal and functional biodiversity, which is arguably the biggest challenge of modern ecology. By doing this across space, time and human impact, I believe we will be marking a new era in ecology.”

Participating in BIOcean5D from DTU Aqua, are Professor Ken Haste Andersen, Professor Brian Mackenzie, also project leader, Senior Researcher Martin Lindegren and Professor Patrizio Mariani.

Photo: Researchers from all across Europe came together to kick-off the ambitious BIOcean5D project aimed at boosting our understanding of marine biodiversity. Credit: EMBL/Kinga Lubowiecka 


BIOcean5D is an EU funded project, and has received more than 17 million Euros in total from the European Commission and from the Swiss and UK government for Swiss and UK partners. 
DTU Aqua’s share of the EU grant is 830.893 Euros.