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Identification of maritime zones affected by eutrophication (IZEUT)

Research project MN/DD2/011 (Research action MN)

Persons :

Description :

Part I


- The eutrophication problem of the Belgian coastal waters
The Belgian coastal waters receive large quantities of anthropogenic nutrients via the nutrient-enriched SW Atlantic waters, the rivers Ijzer, Scheldt and Rhine/Meuse, local coastal effluents and the atmosphere. Eutrophication is apparent as blooms of Phaeocystis colonies that escape grazing by zooplankton. Most damage related to Phaeocystis blooms has been reported as deposits of foam on the beaches and clogging of fishnet.

- International Agreements to Counteract Eutrophication of the North Sea
As contracting party of the North Sea Conference and the Oslo and Paris Conventions, Belgium has agreed to classify their maritime areas as ‘problem areas, potential problem areas and non-problem areas’ with respect to eutrophication following the Common Procedure for the Identification of the Eutrophication Status of the Maritime Area edited by OSPAR. The Common Procedure is a stepwise process including the Screening (descriptive) and Comprehensive (quantitative assessment criteria) Procedure. Although the Common Procedure provides North Sea riparian countries with a common basis to classify the maritime areas according to their eutrophication status, the procedure is restrained up to now to a list of possible qualitative criteria.


The overall objective of IZEUT is to develop and apply eutrophication criteria for an internationally accepted identification of problem areas, potential problem areas and non-problem areas in the Belgian coastal waters. It is based on the Common Procedure for the Identification of the Eutrophication Status of the Maritime Area of the OSPAR Convention.


- Collect updated information concerning the riverine, atmospheric, Atlantic & benthic inputs of nutrients in the Belgian coastal zone to determine the quantitative and qualitative nutrient enrichment of the Belgian coastal zone and the contribution of anthropogenic (agriculture, industry, households) and natural sources.

- Conduct surveys among different communities (civilian, scientific, fishermen, seaside resorts…) to identify possibly measurable indicators of eutrophication-related ecosystem changes, damages and loss in the Belgian coastal waters or parts of it and use them for a socio-economical valuation of Phaeocystis damages.

- Collect existing physical, optical, nutrient, chlorophyll a and phytoplankton data collected in the Belgian coastal waters since 1971 and the adjacent French and Dutch coastal waters and establish cause-effect relationships between key ecological criteria (e.g. Phaeocystis magnitude) and nutrient loads (absolute concentration and ratios).

Expected results

Upon completion IZEUT is expected to define eutrophication-related background reference levels and ecological quality criteria that will be used to produce a map showing the geographical extent of problem areas, potential problem areas and non-problem areas in the Belgian waters and its evolution since 1971. These ecological criteria will be useful as quality target to be reached in future nutrient reduction plans and/or for monitoring trends in the quality of the Belgian waters

The Partners

The project IZEUT combines the scientific efforts of the laboratory of Ecology of Aquatic Systems of the Université Libre de Bruxelles ULB-ESA (Dr.C. Lancelot) and the environmental consultancy office ECOLAS (Ir D. Leroy).
The coordinator, ULB-ESA, an internationally recognised expert in coastal eutrophication and Belgian representative (Dr Ir V. Rousseau) in the OSPAR Eutrophication Task Group, focuses research effort on the establishment of scientifically-based criteria for assessment of eutrophication in the Belgian coastal waters.
The sub-contractor ECOLAS, at the frontier between natural and social science and specialised in estimating socio-economic impacts of marine environmental damages is responsible of the socio-economical valuation of Phaeocystis damages.

Part II

ULB-ESA is conducting since 20 years national and EU-funded research on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and its response to natural and man-induced changes. International collaboration relevant to IZEUT includes informal contact established with IFREMER-Boulogne (France) and RIKZ (The Netherlands) for a regional view of eutrophication problems in the Southern Bight of the North Sea. It also includes participation to OSPAR-SGQAE and -ETG and membership to the SCOR Working Group on Phaeocystis, the EU-ELOISE initiative and the PNEC (Programme National d’Ecologie Côtière, France).

The environmental Consultancy Office Ecolas has a wide expertise on integrated policy studies regarding the management of coastal and marine zones and is member of the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of the Province West-Vlaanderen related to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) issues. Specific interests include oil pollution, eutrophication, harbours, aquaculture and fisheries, socio-economic issues of ICZM, Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS), EUROMAR, biodiversity issues and climate change effects on the coastal zone.

Documentation :

Identification of maritime zones affected by eutrophication (IZEUT) : final report  Rousseau, Véronique - Breton, Elsa - De Wachter, Bart ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2004 (SP1349)
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Bibliografic references :

IZEUT, Identification of Belgian maritime Zones affected by EUTrophication. Implementation of the OSPAR Common Procedure tcombat eutrophication  ROUSSEAU, V., E. BRETON, B. DE WACHTER, A. BEJI, M. DECONINCK, J. HUIJGH, T. BOLSENS, D. LEROY, S. JANS and C. LANCELOT , 2003 

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