The laboratory was founded in 2009 with the aim of developing collaboration between the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of the Sciences and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VANT) on the basis of the A.V. Zhirmunsky National Scientific Center of Marine Biology (Vladivostok, Russia) and the Institute of Oceanography VANT (Nha Trang, Vietnam).
A total of 9 expeditions for the study of biodiversity and population characteristics of benthic and pelagic were conducted in the period of 2009-2018 in the waters of central Vietnam.
Three international scientific conferences on the modern problems of marine biology and ecology were organized .
Three books with materials of the conferences were issued and a number of articles were published in international peer-reviewed journals.
- It has been shown for the first time, that the diversity of octacorals on reefs (Cnidaria: Octocorallia) of central Vietnam is the highest among the investigated local faunas in the World Ocean, and the Indo-Malayan biodiversity hotspot – is a probable source of expansion of these corals in the north-western part of the South-China Sea. The same distribution vector is possible for modern holothurians, whose diversity on reefs of Vietnam is high and shows evident similarities with that of the hotspot. Ecological groups of octcoralsn associated not only with photic regime, but also with pattern of substrate and water movement, were discovered in the area of South China Sea for the first time. Operations were started for monitoring their condition.
- We obtained new facts about the size-age structure of coral populations that indicate the onset of a new succession stage in the development of the reef ecosystem, and also about the natural mechanisms for maintaining their diversity. A comprehensive approach study of decadal changes in marine flora in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region has been applied on such a large-scale level for the first time and a significant decrease has been revealed in the level of species richness of marine plants off the southern coast of China for a more than 80-year period.
- For the first time, diversity of echinoderms in the coastal waters of Vietnam is studied using modern data about the structure of body sclerites, which allows confident identification of the holothurian species. As a result, new holothurian species for this region were found and new data on breeding of echinoderms were obtained (the condition of gonads of the common species of sea urchins and holothurians, composition of meroplankton in Nha Trang Bay in the spring season). Four new holothurian species for Nha Trang Bay (and for entire Vietnam) were discovered, and a total of 33 species (from 15 genera and 6 families) were recorded.
- New data about dynamics of reproduction were obtained from the natural populations of echinoderms and corals in the South China Sea: the condition of gonads in abundant species of corals and echinoderms, the rate of larval colonization and asexual reproduction in corals, the parameters of developing larvae of common sea urchin species (including Diadema setosum), the composition of meroplankton in Nha Trang Bay in the spring season, and the asexual reproduction of holothurians with further regeneration of organs in natural populations, etc. The regeneration of internal organs in the sea cucumber Cladolabes schmeltzii after autotomy of digestive system was investigated for the first time. It has been first shown, that these animals have natural mechanisms of transdifferentiation. It was established that mesodermal cells of connective tissue can transform into enterocytes. Also, a detailed analysis of various aspects of asexual reproduction common holothurians species in central Vietnam was carried out for the first time.
- It has been shown, that the reproduction processes in echinoderms and corals have a complex pattern in natural populations and include both sexual and different methods of sexual reproduction. Thus, in a population the of sea-cucumber Cladolabes schmeltzii, active asexual reproduction by transverse divsion was found in octorals, groups of species with the dominance of vegetative reproduction in the annual cycle were discovered. The monitoring of condition gonads in common holothurians species (for example, Cladolabes schmeltzii and Colochirus quadrangularis) in Nha Trang Bay showed a significant imbalance towards males in the sex structure of populations during the annual cycle: only 6% of mature eugamic individuals were females. It was suggested that asexual reproduction plays a significant role in maintenance of populations of the studied species. A hypothesis has been advanced that processes of asexual reproduction in natural populations of corals and echinodermsata in Nha Trang Bay plays an essential role in survival of a number of species and maintenance of the high biodiversity in this area. The obtained information about biodiversity of octacoral, echinoderms and marine plants extends our knowledge about distribution of these organisms in the tropical zone, and also about pathways of migrations of marine invertebrates in the area of Indo-Malayan biodiversity hotspot and waters area adjacent to it.
Directions of further development of the Laboratory:
- Continuation and development of joint research within the framework of the Vietnam-Russia Laboratory of Marine Biology: biodiversity and reproduction of marine invertebrates of in the South China Sea.
- Organization and conducting of annual joint scientific events and field works including joint expeditions to coastal waters of central Vietnam, research cruises abroad vessels of the research fleet of RAS to the South China Sea, international scientific conferences, and young scientists’ schools.