EU network of mesocosms facilities for research on marine and freshwater ecosystems open for global collaboration.

CRETACOSMOS

Legal name of organisation (short name)
Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR)
Country
Greece
Continent
Europe
Organisation address

Institute of Oceanography
Ex American Base Gournes
71003 Heraklion, Crete
Greece

Infrastructure (short name)
CRETACOSMOS
Infrastructure address

Ex American Base, Crete, Greece, 25 km east of Heraklion

Coordinates / (routes, areas if non-static)
Facility location(s)
Description of the Infrastructure

Description of the infrastructure: CretaCosmos facility is part of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) in Crete. It is the only place in Europe where truly oligotrophic marine conditions can be studied in a well-controlled mesocosm facility. The CretaCosmos facility includes 12 pelagic mesocosms (3 m3) and 9 benthocosms, which are incubated in two large temperature-controlled concrete tanks (150 m3 volume – 3 m depth, and 350 m3 volume – 5 m depth). The pelagic mesocosms are low-density polyethylene bags of 1.32 m diameter, enclosing 3 m3 of water. The benthocosms are low-density polyethylene bags 0.64 m in diameter and 4.5 m high. They hold 1.5 m3 of water and a container with 85 L of sediment at the bottom. The smaller (150 m3) tank is equipped with a fully automated heating/ cooling system that allows temperature manipulation and control within ±0.5 oC of target temperature. Environmental variables (temperature, light, etc.) are monitored via in situ sensors. To fill the mesocosms, Eastern Mediterranean water is collected aboard the R/V Philia. The possibility to control and manipulate water temperature allows running climate- change experiments. The benthocosms, containing a relatively large sediment volume as well as a water column of 4 m height, open the possibility to run experiments on benthic-pelagic coupling under conditions close to the real coastal environment. In addition, the two large-volume concrete tanks can be used to test large instruments, sensors and more. The mesocosm facility is complemented by modern laboratories: chemical lab to analyse nutrients; radio-isotope lab (14C,3H,33P) to measure primary and bacterial production and phosphorus uptake; culture lab equipped with an autoclave, laminar-flow cabinet, incubator, etc.; several general-purpose labs and a constant-temperature room. Plankton and microbial analysis equipment includes two flow cytometers, inverted and epifluorescence microscopes with an automated image analysis system and stereoscopes. Several laboratory equipment (centrifuges, analytical balances, baths, fridge and freezers (-80°C), several liquid N2 dewars, etc) is also available. The facility is also supported by an automotive lab, an inflatable zodiac, and the R/V Philia. An auditorium and several seminar and meeting rooms are available to host regular meetings of the TA participants throughout the experiments.

CretaCosmos facility (left), scheme of benthocosms (middle), see Dimitriou et al. (2017), in situ oil burning and soot collection construction used in the mesocosm experiment 2018 (right). Photos: P. Pitta.
Primary contact information (PI)

Paraskevi Pitta

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Iordanis Magiopoulos

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Years of Mesocosm Experiments
2009 to present
Description of Facility

outdoor – pelagic/benthic – marin

12 polyethylene mesocosm-bags up to 5 m3 (1.32 m diameter) incubated in two large volume concrete tanks (one with volume 150 m³ and 3 m depth and a second one with volume 350 m³ and 5 m depth)

9 benthocosms combining water column (1.5 m3, 4 m deep, 0.64 m diameter) and sediment (85 L) in the same polyethylene mesocosm-bag

The smaller (150 m³) tank is equipped by a sophisticated, fully-automated heating/cooling water system with electric valves, resistances and temperature sensors that allow water heating/cooling and temperature control at ±0.5 ºC of targeted temperature

Controlled Parameters

Temperature, light, nutrients

Research Topics

Response of the ultra-oligotrophic food web of the Eastern Mediterranean to perturbations, climate change scenarios (simultaneous effect of warming & acidification), impact of aerosol input, effect of silver nanoparticles, benthic-pelagic coupling at benthocosms, hypoxia

Primary interests
Specialist areas
Source of Information
Photos of experiments/installations
Cretacosmos facility during the LightDynaMix project (Photo: Stella A Berger)
Two basins of the Cretacosmos mesocosm facility (Photo: Vivi Pitta)
Cretacosmos mesocosm facility (Photo: Vivi Pitta)
Infrastructure (short name)
CRETACOSMOS
Modality of access

Modality of access under AQUACOSM: A total of 688 person-days will be offered to external users supported through the AQUACOSM Transnational Access provision in years 2-4, a minimum of 6 persons for 30 days each year. Projects of external users will be integrated in the general schedule of the facility.

Modality of access under AQUACOSM-plus: A total of 600 person-days will be offered to external users supported through the AQUACOSM-plus Transnational Access provision. It is anticipated that AQUACOSM-plus will support stays of at least 7 persons for 43 days per year in M10-21 and M34-45. Projects of external users will be integrated in the general schedule of the facility.

Unit of access
What service and support facilities are available

Services currently offered by the infrastructure: Users of CretaCosmos have access to the full range of mesocosms, laboratories and instrumentation described above. Eleven experimental campaigns have used the CretaCosmos facility since 2009, including 7 EU funded projects. Over 90 scientists from 16 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia participated in these experiments, addressing various aspects of global environmental change. For example, the MedSeA experiment in 2013 was the first to assess combined effects of seawater warming and acidification on the pelagic food web of an oligotrophic area (Eastern Mediterranean), and the benthocosms were first used in 2014 during a two-month experiment addressing the effect of eutrophication on benthic-pelagic coupling. Up to date, 26 publications have been published in peer-reviewed journals while 25 more are planned. Additionally, an enclosure facility moored offshore, the Lagrangian Mesocosm Platform (LAMP) operated by the partner CNRS-MARBEC, was successfully tested during the EU project MESOAQUA in 2011.

Support offered under AQUACOSM: The laboratories, research vessels and equipment described above will be at the disposal of the users of CRETACOSMOS under AQUACOSM. To maximize scientific advancements and output of the TA activity, users will receive support in terms of planning of activities both before and after arrival. Hands-on training by the local team of academic and technical staff. IT support, a library with on-line access to all major marine science journals will also be provided. Building on dedicated administrative staff and ample experience gained since 2009, an efficient administration mechanism is in place. The HCMR research park in Heraklion (Thalassocosmos) where 31 scientists of 3 institutes work on oceanography, aquaculture, fisheries, marine biology and genetics offers a stimulating broader scientific environment. Visitors under AQUACOSM are encouraged to get involved in the academic discourse in both formal and informal ways.

Support offered under AQUACOSM-plus: The laboratories, research vessels and equipment described above will be at the disposal of the users of CretaCosmos under AQUACOSM-plus. To maximize scientific advancements and output of the TA activity, users will receive support in terms of planning of activities both before and after arrival. Hands-on training by the local team of academic and technical staff, IT support and on-line access to all major marine science journals will also be provided. The HCMR research park in Heraklion (Thalassocosmos) where more than 100 scientists of 3 institutes work on oceanography, aquaculture, fisheries, marine biology and genetics offers a stimulating broader scientific environment.

Accommodation

no dormitories, accomodation in hotels

Special rules