Belspo Sitemap Contact Calendar Home
Meiobenthic biodiversity and fluxes within the Antarctic biogeochemical environment

Antarctica phase IV (1997-2000)

Meiobenthic biodiversity and fluxes within the Antarctic biogeochemical environment


Prof. Magda Vincx
Universiteit Gent
Instituut voor Dierkunde
Mariene Biologie
K.L. Ledeganckstraat, 35
B-9000 GENT
Phone: +32 (0)9 264 52 10
Fax: +32 (0)9 264 53 44


The purpose of this project is to determine the role of the coastal zone and the deep sea ecosystems in the productivity and energy fluxes in the Southern Ocean. In the Antarctic, where the availability of the food resources - produced as well in situ as imported - strongly depends on the seasonal variations of the environmental conditions, the space and temporal variations of the various relations between the various communities have a fundamental importance. The structure and the functioning of the antarctic biota are also determined by typical phenomena resulting from the dynamics of the sea ice. One thinks here of the capacity of recovery of the biota subjected to disturbances due to the action of icebergs in the coastal zone and at the edge of the ice cap.

Special attention will be paid to the association between meiofauna, interstitial nutrients, organic matter (dissolved and particulate), pigments, sediments texture and bacteria.

Central to this study on the meiobenthos are the following topics:

  • seasonal, annual and long-term variations;
  • biogeochemical interactions and carbon fluxes;
  • feeding strategies; and
  • life cycles.

These topics are dealt with in a general framework of coupling benthos/pelagos, abiotic/biotic interactions and of biodiversity within the Antarctic ecosystem.


The overall objective of the project is to improve our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic coastal and shelf marine ecosystems from the point of view of the meiofauna. It will be endeavoured to determine the complex but productive patterns of antarctic meiofauna according to the specific characteristics of an sea ice dominated ecosystem.

Specific objectives are:

  • monthly evaluation of the seasonality of the meiobenthos in response to the pelagic contribution of the primary production;
  • determination of the short-term effect (days) on the benthos of the direct supply of organic matter from the water column to the seabed;
  • comparison of the seasonal variations of benthic activity within a low-Antarctic site (Signy) and within a high-Antarctic site (Rothera);
  • study of the interactions between the composition and the structure of the meiobenthos, on the one hand, and the biotic and non-biotic south polar environment, on the other hand;
  • improvement of the knowledge of the role of the meiofauna in the recycling and transport of the biogenic matter, thanks to the determination of carbon budget;
  • identification of life history and feeding strategies of the dominant groups meiobenthic (nematodes) in a complete annual cycle;
  • determination of the mechanisms of reciprocal coupling and decoupling of benthic strategies (feeding, reproduction);
  • description of the structural biodiversity of benthic communities in specific polar biotopes (mattes of sponge spicules, bryozoan structures, " fluff ", remainders of algae...);
  • evaluation of the succession of the benthic communities in the process of recolonization (recovery) following disturbances caused by iceberg scouring;
  • determination of the temporal variability of meiobenthic diversity in antarctic coastal ecosystems.

Related Projects

  • Ecofunctional biodiversity of benthic crustacean taxocoenoses in the Southern Ocean
    Dr Cl. DE BROYER -- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
    Research contract # A4/36/B02
  • An integrated approach to assess carbon dynamics in the Southern Ocean
    Dr F. DEHAIRS -- Vrije Universiteit Brussel (coordinator)
    I : New and export production
    Dr F. DEHAIRS -- Vrije Universiteit Brussel
    Research contract # A4/03/B11
    II : Study and modelisation of the planktonic system
    Dr Ch. LANCELOT -- Université Libre de Bruxelles
    Research contract # A4/11/B12
    III : Barite geochemistry
    Dr L. ANDRÉ -- Royal Museum for Central Africa
    Research contract # A4/37/B13
    IV : Air/sea exchanges
    Dr M. FRANKIGNOULLE -- Université de Liège
    Research contract # A4/12/B14
    V : 1D Modelling of the sea-ice and water column
    Dr E. DELEERSNIJDER -- Université Catholique de Louvain
    Research contract # A4/10/B15
  • Response of the Southern Ocean global ecosystem to physical and trophic constraints
    Dr J.-H. HECQ -- Université de Liège (coordinator)
    I : Ecosystem functioning and modelling
    Dr J.H. HECQ -- Université de Liège
    Research contract # A4/12/B21
    II : Physical modelling
    Dr G. PICHOT -- Management Unit of the North Sea and Scheldt Estuary Mathematical Model (MUMM) - Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences
    Research contract # A4/36/B22
    III : Role of the picophytoplankton
    Prof. V. DEMOULIN -- Université de Liège
    Research contract # A4/12/B23

About this website

Cookies policy

Personal data

© Science Policy PPS