The proposed conference is the last of a series of two with the overall objective to inventory, summarise and generalise the scientific knowledge on the structure and function of marine biodiversity in coastal marine areas of Europe. Now that the Rio Convention has been ratified by nearly all European countries, and by the European Union, it becomes clear that the knowledge required to cover the obligations of the convention is simply not available, even in Europe where the seas have been explored for hundreds of years and taxonomic and general ecological knowledge is well advanced when compared to other areas of the world. The first meeting aimed at increasing relevant knowledge by inventorying what is known on three aspects of biodiversity (genes, species, habitat) in shallow coastal areas.
The proposed 2nd meeting will build on this and attempts to address some of the questions proposed by it. The emphasis will be on understanding the causes of the observed patterns and on functional studies that try to understand the role of biodiversity in biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem productivity and food web structure. It will bring together the widely separated marine biodiversity research projects that are now underway in many countries as a consequence of the Rio Convention. Emphasis will be on large-scale and long-term problems such as the consequences of climate change. Since we cannot conduct realistic experiments on these scales, this will be achieved by the integration of a number of short-term and regional research projects that are now running, notably in the fifth framework programme of the CEC, that address functional problems (the role of marine biodiversity) and that would benefit enormously from being discussed together. A number of the most important problems in marine biodiversity research require a type of research that cannot be supported by the classical funding mechanisms and require a concentration at the scale of the continent (and larger).