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Long term trends in the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf

Research project MN/DD2/013 (Research action mn)


Persons :


Description :

Introduction and objectives

The Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS) (surface : 2600 km²) is only 0.5 % of the North Sea surface, but it has a very high diversity in marine habitats and associated biological communities. Also, the socio-economic importance of the BCS is very high. As in most areas around the North Sea, a lot of anthropogenic activities, such as sea fisheries, maritime transport, military shootings, dredging activities and others occur on the BCS.
The combination of the ecological and the socio-economic value of the BCS causes conflicts between both interests. Therefore it is very important to develop a sustainable management plan for the natural resources of the BCS. To obtain this goal, information and knowledge is required about (1) geographical distribution of the marine biological communities, (2) the structure of these communities, (3) their relationship with the physical and the chemical environment, (4) the natural ecological and genetic variability, and (5) the nature and the effect of the anthropogenic influences on these ecosystem components.
Macrobenthic organisms are good candidates for monitoring the short and long-term effects of natural and anthropogenic impacts on and within the marine environment because of their direct link with the sediment and with the processes that occur immediately above the sediments.

The objectives of this proposal are linked to the scientific support for a sustainable development policy, (sustainable management of the North Sea) focused on action A3 : Evaluation of the changes in the macrobenthic communities of the Belgian Continental Shelf through anthropogenic influences.

GLOBAL OBJECTIVE
The global objective of this proposal is to deliver a substantial contribution to the knowledge of the long term variability in the biodiversity of the macrobenthos and the relationship with anthropogenic activities.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES

1. Spatial distribution and long term variation of the macrobenthos
- Preparation of an Atlas with distribution maps of the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS) for the periods 1977-1983 and 1994-2000 (through a compilation of available and new macrobenthic data)
- Evaluation of the long term variation of the macrobenthos of the BCS (end 19th - begin 20th century (Gilson collection) versus 1977-1983 versus 1994-2000)
- Evaluation of the differential effects of anthropogenic activities on the macrobenthos (‘Quick’ method)

2. Detailed long term variation of the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf
- Detailed investigation of the long term variability of the macrobenthos of the BCS (in 4 stations with different anthropogenic influences)
- Detailed evaluation of the impact of a selected number of anthropogenic activities on the macrobenthos of the BCS (investigation of the causal relationships)

Planned activities

SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION AND LONG TERM VARIATION OF THE MACROBENTHOS (comparison of the new data from the samples of 1977-1983 with the already available data of the samples from 1994-2000)

- Collecting meta-data of the available, not-processed samples
- Determination of the gaps in inventory information in the spatial distribution of the macrobenthos of the BCS
- Selection of the samples to investigate
- Investigating the selected samples
- Integration of the new data with the already available data
- Preparation of the Atlas with the distribution maps of the macrobenthos of the BCS for the periods 1977-1983 and 1994-2000
- Integration of the ‘Gilson data’ within the macrobenthos dataset of the BCS
- Evaluation of the long-term variation of the BCS
- Collecting the information of the anthropogenic activities during the period 1977-2000
- Evaluation of the differential effects of anthropogenic activities on the macrobenthos (‘Quick’ method)

DETAILED STUDY OF THE LONG TERM VARIATION OF THE MACROBENTHOS OF THE BCS

- Classification of the (monitoring)stations based on the macrobenthic communities
- Classification of the (monitoring)stations based on the presence/absence of changes in anthropogenic activities in the periods 1977-2000
- Selection of the stations to investigate
- Investigation of the selected samples
- Integration of the new data with the already available macrobenthic data
- Detailed study of the long term variation of the macrobenthos
- Detailed evaluation of the impact of the selected anthropogenic activities on the macrobenthos

Partners and their interaction

The collected marcobenthos-material of the North Sea is present as well in the Marine Biology Section of the Ghent University as in the Department of Sea Fisheries in Ostend. The biologists who will investigated the material will work as well in Gent as in Ostend which will guarantee a perfect integration of the data.

Coordinator
Dr. S. Degraer & Prof. Dr. M. Vincx (co-ordinator)
Universiteit Gent, Vakgroep Biologie, Sectie Mariene Biologie
K.L. Ledeganckstraat, 35
B 9000 Gent, België
Tel +32 9 2645210 Fax +32 9 2645344 email : steven.degraer@rug.ac.be

The Marine Biology Section of the Department of Biology (University of Ghent, Belgium) has been involved in ecological and systematic research of marine ecosystems from 1970 onwards. The research started with the investigation of North Sea benthic communities, with special focus on the macro- and meiobenthos. From 1980 onwards, research was expanded to include the hyperbenthic and epibenthic compartments. Research is still going on in the North Sea and adjacent estuaries (SSTC and FWO programmes). Next to the biological subjects (for which the marine biology section is equipped with the best microscopes and a very complete library) also more geochemical characteristics are determined and analysed.

Partner 1
Dr. Rudy De Clerck
Sea Fisheries Department - CLO,
Ankerstraat, 1
B 8400 Oostende, België
Tel + 32 59 342250 Fax + 32 59330629 email : dvz@yucom.be

Research at the Department of Sea Fisheries is strongly service-oriented towards international scientific organizations and management bodies, the government, the fishing industry and the consumer. The main task of the department is to provide the scientific basis for the rational and sustainable exploitation of living marine resources, the protection of the marine environment as a habitat for these resources, and the quality control and assurance of fishery products. Therefore is the department active in four different research areas, which overlap each other. The Biology Section does fundamental and applied research on the life history aspects, the population dynamics and the exploitation patterns of commercial fish and shellfish. Besides, attention is paid to the artificial rearing for restocking purposes and aquaculture of shellfish. The research area is the monitoring, in which various routine research programmes are carried out on the possible repercussions of contaminants on the marine ecosystem. Emphasis is put on the biological monitoring of sand extraction areas and dredge spoil disposal sites, and the chemical monitoring of trace metals, PCBs, PAHs, and volatile organic compounds. Furthermore, histo-pathological, bacteriological and biological effects techniques are used to examine the impact of diseases, parasites and contaminants on fish and shellfish. The major aim for the Fishing Gear Technology Section is the development of "efficient" fishing gear, thereby combining technical, biological, ecological and economic concerns. This comprises the improvement of existing fishing gears, the introduction of new fishing methods in the national fishery, and the design of completely new gears. Present-day gear research emphasises the development of more selective fishing gears and the reduction of their adverse environmental impact The Product Technology Section is actively involved in the development of methods to determine the authenticity and the quality of fishery products. Authenticity is being investigated by generating species-specific protein and/or DNA-patterns. Research on the quality of fishery products chiefly focuses on the assessment and the maintenance of freshness at the primary production site.


Documentation :

De Macrobenthosatlas van het Belgisch deel van de Noordzee  Degraer, Steven - Wittoeck, Jan - Appeltans, Ward ... et al  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2006 (SP1594)
[To order

L'Atlas du Macrobenthos de la partie belge de la mer du Nord  Degraer, Steven - Wittoeck, Jan - Appeltans, Ward ... et al  Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2006 (SP1595)
[To order

The Macrobenthos Atlas of the belgian part of the North Sea  Degraer, Steven - Wittoeck, Jan - Appeltans, Ward ... et al  Brussel : Belgian Science Policy, 2006 (SP1596)
[To order

Long term trends in the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf : final report  Wittoeck, J. - Hostens, K. - Hillewaert, H. ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2006 (SP1727)
[To order

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