COST Action FA1406 (2015-2019)


General objectives of PHYCOMORPH

The principal objective of PHYCOMORPH is to increase basic knowledge about macroalgal growth, development and reproduction, and to improve sustainable seaweed aquaculture.

This will be performed by combining (i) our PHYCOMORPH partners’ academic understanding of the many biological processes that control macroalgal development, with (ii) the know-how of Research & Development organisations dedicated to knowledge transfer and the creation of innovative seaweed industries.

Ultimately, the Action will be a catalyst for further development and coordination of research dedicated to a better understanding of the physiological, cellular, molecular and genetic mechanisms that control macroalgal growth and development, and further identification of the critical elements of aquaculture
and bloom management.

Specifically, PHYCOMORPH will :

1. Identify the bottlenecks that impede further development of sustainable algal aquaculture.

Among the technological issues to be solved are: 

- Prevent cross-breeding between wild and cultivated seaweed species.

- For specific species with economic value (e.g. Porphyra, Laminaria, Saccharina; see also the “Seaweed Species-Selection Index recently proposed by Kang et al., J. Ocean Univ China, 2013):

  • Set up in-lab cultivation protocols and develop recommendations for new candidate species 
  • Provide standardized feedstock for predictable and robust biomass production
  • Decrease biofouling on the surface of seaweeds, which decreases the quality of the bioresource and affects the production of algal natural products
  • Develop germling preservation techniques to control and stabilise the production in hatcheries
  • Control life cycle shifts that might jeopardize the biomass production through sporulation events.

2. Coordinate and combine the expertise of individual, high-skilled academic research groups in all areas of biology and chemistry to improve our understanding of fundamental processes related to seaweed fertility, growth and development (Task 1,2 3).

The biological issues to be investigated include (to meet the goals stated above):

  • Identifying the chemical and environmental factors to control seaweed fertility using e.g. comparative metabolite profiling along with chemoimetric data analyses.
  • For specific seaweeds (to be chosen by all partners at the beginning of the COST Action), acquiring better knowledge of their life cycles and establishing cultivation conditions in lab.
  • Controlling early life stages of different seaweeds in both tanks and natural environments, and characterizing the adhesion processes (e.g. biofilm formation) at the biological level.
  • Identifying the seasonal environmental impact (including of nutrients, light, temperature, hydrodynamics), on seaweed growth and productivity (e.g. regarding bloom events).
  • Acquiring better knowledge of the seaweed surface to establish protocols to reduce biofouling. 
  • Setting up protocols to preserve seaweed spores, embryos or germlings (cryopreservation) in collaboration with the national curators of the algal collections (e.g., SAG, Germany; CCAP, UK). 

3. Develop technical tools to address new seaweed biological issues (Task 4).

4. Offer open workshops to consolidate the scattered expertise in the scientific community and disseminate it to a broader audience.

5. Train the next generation of innovative and interdisciplinary researchers through short-term scientific missions (STSMs), workshops and summer schools.

6. Ensure knowledge transfer to aquaculture industrial end-users (e.g. by listing our standardized protocols at the end of the Action, by directly interacting with the aquaculture industry through the Action).

7. Provide recommandations to reduce the environmental impact of seaweed aquaculture to aquaculture stakeholders and policy-makers.