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ATLANTIC OCEAN RESEARCH ALLIANCE Marine Microbiome - a hidden treasure for human society


Our new capacities to explore marine microbiomes have ushered in a new and exciting era of ocean discovery that will shape human endeavours for decades to come. This new wave of exploration has already revealed how microscopic life - permeating the entire ocean - impacts almost every aspect of our own. It has also shown that we’re only scratching the surface of the fascinating realm of marine microbes. To better guide society’s future, we must deepen our understanding of the marine microbiomes throughout the oceans, using novel technologies to advise policies fostering truly sustainable marine development. Early research has revealed that the marine microbiome is the beating heart of the living ocean: it drives its nutrient and biogeochemical cycles, forms the basis of its food webs, performs essential functions in climate regulation, and can mitigate the impacts of pollution. At the same time, it can also be a source of biological threats including toxic algal blooms, antibiotic resistance, and oxygen depletion. Greater understanding of the marine microbiome will help us better predict and manage our oceans, while exploring a largely untapped resource for biodiscovery and the bioeconomy.

A microbiome is the collection of all microbes - including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and other microscopic eukaryotes - that have settled in an environment. Microbiomes can be composed of both free floating microbes or those living on surfaces, including other organisms. The “marine microbiome” is the sum of all microbiomes across the marine realm. The AORA Marine Microbiome Roadmap is the result of an international cooperative effort between the United States, Canada, and the European Union produced within the AORA framework. The Roadmap is aligned to the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, showing how an alliance between science, industry and policy makers will advance the “Next Great Exploration of the Oceans”.


Full report Efficiently maturing multi-sector competence in microbiome research and application, it is essential that governments, academia, and industry cooperate and align their strengths, objectives, and incentives to meet shared goals. To this end, AORA scientists and policymakers have developed a high-level Roadmap to help advance a coherent, Atlantic-wide approach to microbiome research and monitoring to: A facilitate cooperation along and across the Atlantic, B increase the visibility of marine microbiome research and applications, and C promote a healthy ocean and sustainable bioeconomy. The Roadmap identifies three thematic pillars: Environment and Climate, the Food Value Chain and Biodiscovery. All three are tightly integrated and complemented by underlying cross-cutting themes to promote concerted action.

The Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Coopeeration between the European Union, Canada and the United States of America


Key Recommendations. To best prepare sectors to benefit from the bounty of the marine microbiome, the Roadmap provides the following, general recommendations: • Demonstrate the socio-economic value of marine microbiomes - with innovative products, more environmentally sustainable production systems and new tools that allow public managers to better monitor and assess environmental and human health thresholds and threats • Increase our capacity to share national infrastructures across borders for microbiome research and application, including harmonised funding capacities • Accelerate the development and use of microbiome standards and common methodologies • Consolidate and harmonise best practices for FAIR-aligned microbiome data sharing across all sectors • Spark fascination in the marine microbiome across society


To enhance our currently underdeveloped and under-coordinated ability to observe the marine microbiome at scale, the Roadmap recommends that Atlantic nations: • Align existing and emerging Atlantic microbiome initiatives by prioritising support of collaborative and community-driven networks, using interoperable standards and best practices to promote greater basin scale cooperation • Develop sustainable and robust funding schemes to maintain coordinated, operational-grade, representative, and long-term microbiome observation and associated research in the Atlantic • Encouraging universities to initiate targeted marine food microbiome related fields of study and establish new university chairs • Augment marine biodiversity data, information, and knowledge hubs with harmonised, microbiome-focused content and services


To channel deeper understanding of the marine microbiome into the protection and sustainable use of marine ecosystems, the Roadmap recommends: • Mapping and sequencing the Atlantic microbiome through space and time, emphasizing the variability in its diversity, functions, and the services it provides for human society • Strongly improving our ability to use coordinated microbiome data to predict and guide responses to stressors such as climate change and pollution • Strongly improving the bridge between environmental observations, controlled experiments, digital simulations, and predictive modelling to better integrate knowledge across theory and observation • Continuously channeling integrated insights into microbiome-driven strategies to mitigate negative human impact on the biosphere at every scale through, e.g., carbon sequestration, pollution control and remediation, and methane conversion


To improve our ability to use marine microbiomes to facilitate healthy marine food production (and to be on par with microbiome applications in the terrestrial, freshwater, and animal-based agriculture), the Roadmap recommends: • Raise international, political and public awareness of potential applications of marine microbiomes in sustainable marine food production • Providing access to technical training and opportunities that inspire entrepreneurship • Free exchange of knowledge and technology to encourage uptake by farmers from small and medium enterprise aquaculture


The Roadmap also provides more specific recommendations along the following dimensions:

To unlock the potential for biodiscovery and bioproduct development across the vast and often inaccessible range of the marine microbiome, the Roadmap recommends: • Creating model demonstrations of microbiome-based biodiscovery processes, including navigation of contractual obligations and connection to industry partners • Creating targeted research projects and model demonstrations of microbiome-based biodiscovery processes, including navigation of contractual obligations and connection to industry partners • Developing guidelines to balance public and proprietary access models for microbiome samples and data products, protecting commercial interests and the public good AORA Marine Microbiome – a hidden treasure for human society

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