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Benthic Habitat Ecology Research Group

Research areas:

Seabed ecology

Research activities in this field focus on benthic invertebrates and macrophytes (at species, population and community level), their functional role and sensitivity to environmental pressures, habitat mapping and their predictive modelling. The main objectives are to understand how benthic marine and aquatic systems are spatially-temporally structured and functioning, how they depend on environmental factors (e.g. water salinity, hydrodynamics, transparency), including human pressures (e.g. eutrophication, non-indigenous species, trawling), which is crucial for integrated coastal zone management and conservation. Researchers are involved in the long-term monitoring of macrozoobenthos and macrophytobenthos species, mapping their habitats and ecological functions, development of methods for benthic mapping (e.g. underwater video, acoustic, remote sensing) and monitoring, valorization system of benthic importance and indicators for assessment of ecosystem status. Researchers mainly work in the Baltic Sea and Curonian Lagoon ecosystems, but they have considerable experience both in inland waters and beyond the Baltic region: the Arctic Ocean, the White Sea, the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the European lagoons.

Marine conservation & management

Activities in the field of marine conservation contribute significantly to marine spatial planning. Marine conservation and management involves both data mining stage (e.g. baseline biodiversity studies, research on migration or reproduction of endangered species) and use of these data for planning and implementation of conservation actions (zonation of territories, designation of marine protected areas, development of management plans, development and application of state indicators). For this purpose a complex view and integration of knowledge on different ecosystem elements i.e. benthic and pelagic habitats, fishes, marine birds and mammals is needed. Moreover, a critical use of this knowledge in a context of numerous human activities such exploitation of resources (e.g. fish, wind or sand), infrastructure development (cables, pipes, coastal protection etc.), shipping and other direct or indirect pressures on the environment is crucial for successful conservation of marine features. Currently, an increasing focus on development and implementation of direct conservation measures in the marine ecosystems, which could actively improve conservation status of important marine areas or species.

Major topics:

  • Mapping of benthic habitats
    Further mapping of benthic habitats and long-term monitoring of zoobenthos and macrophytes communities in marine and fresh waters. Development of methods for benthic habitat mapping and monitoring.
  • Modelling of species distribution
    Further testing and application of statistical predictive techniques (e.g. non-linear regression, machine learning) for modelling of benthic species distribution at different spatial scales in order to test ecological scenarios.
  • Assessment of benthic ecological quality
    Based on Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Water Framework Directive, development and testing of indicators based on zoobenthos and macrophytes for ecological status assessment and monitoring of coastal, transitional and inland waters.


Dr. Martynas Bučas

Head, mapping and monitoring of macrophytes, assessment of ecological quality, species distribution modelling

Dr. Andrius Šiaulys

mapping and monitoring of zoobenthos, species distribution modelling, valorization system of benthic importance, functional role of zoobenthos

Dr. Darius Daunys
marine protected areas and conservation, trawling impact assessment, mapping of benthic habitats, functional role of zoobenthos

Dr. Sergej Olenin
mapping of benthic habitats and long-term monitoring of zoobenthos, non-indigenous species impact assessment and measures

Dr. Aleksej Šaškov
mapping of benthic habitats and spawning grounds, methods for benthic habitat mapping

Dr. Ingrida Bagdanavičiūtė
coastal changes, GIS and multi-criteria methods

PhD student Sabina Solovjova
long-term monitoring of zoobenthos

PhD student Vaiva Stragauskaitė
mapping of macrophytes and oospores