Benthic Ecology
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© HCMR / Yiannis Issaris
© Thanos Dailianis
© Giulius Glampedakis

Benthic Ecology Lab

This unit, which supports the integrated study of the structure and functioning of benthic ecosystems (bacteria, plants and animals) of coastal, transitional and open sea areas, has facilities in Athens and Crete. Specifically, it deals with the following subject areas:

  • Taxonomy of benthic flora and fauna in coastal, transitional and marine ecosystems of all bathymetric zones and substrates
  • Research on the Systematics of Polychaetes
  • Studies on distribution, structural and morphological features of seagrasses and seaweeds.
  • Benthic ecosystem baseline assessments, studying the state of the temperate rocky, tropical coral reef and seagrass coastal ecosystems (while accounting for all benthic assemblages, i.e. fish and benthic invertebrates).
  • Underwater habitat type ground truthing and habitat description to support habitat mapping studies.
  • Study of the distribution, phenology and performance of seagrass meadows and measure seagrass structural, physiological and geochemical variables
  • Biodiversity, Food-web Interactions and Ecosystem Functioning
  • Development and Implementation of Benthic Quality Indicators (Biotic and Functional)
  • Development of non-destructive Visual Sampling Methods for in situ benthic population ecology studies and fine-scale spatial mapping
  • Assessment and monitoring of the Ecological Status of the benthic ecosystem (macroinvertebrates, macroalgae and marine angiosperms) in Coastal and Transitional Waters in accordance with the Guidelines and Directives HD (92/43), WFD (2000/60), MSFD (2008/56).
  • Environmental Impact Assessment in relation to pressures (eutrophication, organic pollution, aquaculture, thermal, industrial, discharges, dredging, oil, wind farms, coastal modification, acidification, climate change etc.)
  • Studies of ecosystem functioning in extreme environments in the deep sea
  • Ecology, biodiversity and trophic relationships of meiofaunal organisms
  • Invasive Species ecology
  • Conservation and Restoration Ecology


Benthic fauna

Field Equipment for benthic fauna. Sampling gears can cover a variety of different sampling designs, in terms of sample surface, target species and substrate; for both meiofauna and macrofauna, and from muddy sediments to coarse-sand and maerl. The available sampler types are the following (with respected sample surface): Single Box Corers (0.1 and 0.05 m2), Multiple Corer (9cm diameter), Smith McIntyre (0.1 m2), Van Veen (0.1 m2), Ponar (0.05 m2), Dredge (0.23m2 metal frame surface, 2cm net mesh-size) and several Tube Corers (2.2 or 4.4cm diameter) for sub-sampling from larger gear. In addition, one Portable pH Meter can be used for measurements of sediment characteristics, such as pH, conductivity, ion, temperature and Eh.

For sample sieving, available equipment includes several stainless-steel sieves from 32μm to 1 mm mesh-size, suitable for all monitoring requirements. Also, a lab-owned design of an array with five stainless-steel hoppers can be used for gentle sediment fragmentation and offers fast washing of large number of samples.

Lab Equipment. The lab is equipped with Hotplate magnetic stirrer for sub-sampling of meiofauna, three stereoscopes (OLYMPUS SZX10, SZX9, SZ40, MODELS), six Brightfield microscopes (OLYMPUS BZ43, BH2) and two Differential Interference Contrast Microscopes for species identification. Additionally, we have on our disposal two camera Lucida, two digital cameras (LUMINERA 1), which are compatible for mounting either a stereoscope, or a microscope and Image Analysis Pro Plus 9.3, all of which can be used for taxonomic illustrations and morphometric measurements. Finally, four precisions scales (MODELS, METTLER TOLEDO B154) are available for biomass analyses.

Benthic Flora

Field work activities for benthic flora are conducted by means of scientific diving, snorkeling, and boat surveys with tow cameras and ROVs. Visual sampling techniques are supported by a variety of modern high-resolution underwater cameras (stills, video, stereo) in suitable underwater housings with external lighting (strobes and video lights). Quadrats of various sizes, measuring tapes and marked distance diving lines are available for in situ visual counting, whereas permanent marking equipment (such as pneumatic and manual drills, stainless steel anchors and pikes) are used to mark permanent transects/quadrats and other physiogeographical sea-bottom features. ONSET™ waterproof shuttles are available for programming and in situ downloading data from HOBO® temperature sensors. To study the distribution, phenology and performance of seagrass meadows and run field experiments the lab is equipped with modern field equipment such as quadrats, sediment cores, incubation chambers, litter bags.

The lab is equipped with an OLYMPUS SZX10 stereoscope and an OLYMPUS BX43 microscope for species identification. Additionally, the Infinity microscope and stereoscope camera is available, which includes Teledyne Luminera™ Analyze and Capture Software packages for image capture and morphometric measurements. Also, laboratory equipment to measure seagrass structural, physiological and geochemical variables and run laboratory experiments (stove, muffle furnace, balance, freezer, access to spectrophotometer and CHN analyzer, laboratory incubation system). Access to boat and diving equipment.