Sargassum strandings have been causing major ecological, economic and societal damage in the Caribbean since 2011. These strandings are associated with the recent presence of these pelagic species in the tropical North Atlantic in an area known as the ‘New Sargasso Sea’. The SARGASSUM ORIGINS project is a contribution to Theme 1 (Characterization of the Sargassum Genus) of the Sargassum call.
The research and methodological developments are based on the synergy between phycologists, molecular ecologists, microbiologists, marine ecologists and physicists. The project is divided into five themes (WP) :
WP1 – Species delimitation and phylogeny. The main objective is to determine the exact delimitation of Sargassum species through an integrative approach combining morphological analysis, DNA analysis and chemical fingerprinting.
WP2 – Connectivity across the ocean. We aim at assessing genetic connectivity among Sargassum pelagic populations, associated with Lagrangian modeling.
WP3 – Microbes, a tool to detect the origin of Sargassum. The microbiome associated with Sargassum has been shown to be geographically dependent and will be used to study short-term relationships between different aggregations and between different parts of the Atlantic.
WP4 – Carbon and nitrogen pathways in Sargassum. The contribution of continental nutrient inputs from the major rivers of the Atlantic Ocean relative to offshore nutrient inputs from upwelling systems will be studied using stable isotope analyses.
WP5 – Collection of samples. Consortium members are experts in Sargassum and marine ecology with access to relevant areas in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean regions. WP5 will provide samples to carry out the tasks of the previous WPs.
The project bring together 10 partners, 7 from France and 3 from the US. Among French partners, 1 lab and 1 enterprise are located in French Caribbean (Guadeloupe and Martinique respectively) and among US partners 2 of them belong to the Caribbean region (Florida and Texas).