Experimental design
Program type
Scientific cooperation

People involved

Microphytobenthos Biofilm structure and function under Environmental challenge


Microphytobenthic (MPB) biofilms in mudflats are of great ecological significance, mediating nutrient turnover, primary productivity, contaminant denaturing and, by the production of large quantities of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), forming a matrix at the sediment surface and stabilising sediments. Diatoms are by far the most abundant taxa of the microphytobenthos (MPB) but “microphytobenthic biofilms” are much more complex than appears at first glance. Diatoms are merely the tip of the biofilm iceberg since MPB comprise a large diversity of eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms which contribute to the functioning of the whole community and interact together in multiple ways. MPB biofilms are complex and highly organised ecosystems where opposing gradients of oxygen and sulphide provide rapidly changing ecological niches and favour the development of different functional groups of microorganisms that display various forms of respiration. These biofilms develop in marine habitats sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic pressures. These systems are under constant and increasing pressure from human activities and climate change, placing their related biodiversity and ecosystem services at risk. However, the response of natural populations and communities to external stress is complex. We need an innovative integrative approach to investigate the combined effects of different stressors on ecosystem structure and function. This programme will establish a protocol for examining the impact of selected stressors on biofilm development and function as a model system to develop future collaborations.

This project is supported by ASSEMBLE PLUS TA access



  • University of St Andrews : David M Paterson, James Rimmer, Andrew Blight
  • Université de Nantes : Bruno Jesus, Antoine Prins