Ongoing projects

Unraveling electrical ecosystems: insight into microbial communities powered by electrical currents. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2024

Abstract

A decade ago a unique electrical microbial metabolism was discovered in the seafloor that is revolutionizing our long-held views of biogeochemistry and microbial ecosystems. These multicellular microbes are referred to as "cable bacteria", as they transport electrical currents over long distances, much like electricity cables. Cable bacteria form dense networks in the environment that drastically change the geochemical makeup of the seafloor. This electricity-based metabolism sidesteps the traditional "redox ladder" and thus questions the current knowledge of how oxidation-reduction reactions occur in natural systems. Interestingly, cable bacteria appear to not work alone, but rather engage in electrical interactions with other microbes. The associated microbes are hypothesized to use the filaments as an "electron highway" by exchanging electrons with the cable bacteria. Such a cooperation allows microbes to access electron sinks (or sources) centimeters away via the cable bacteria filament. This research aims to provide insight into this new form of microbial cooperation and the underlying mechanisms that drive the "electrical ecosystem". A multidisciplinary approach combining molecular biology, geochemistry and inventive cultivation systems is proposed.

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The electrical ecosystem: cable bacteria and associated partner microorganisms 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Long filamentous cable bacteria are capable of generating and mediating electricity over centimeter-scale distances, thus extending the known length scale of biological electron transport by three orders of magnitude. Up until present, research efforts have concentrated on the cable bacteria themselves, yet recent data provide indications of a tight coupling between cable bacteria and associated microorganisms. Possible interactions include a mutualistic exchange of metabolic substrates (classical syntrophy) or, more intriguingly, indirect and direct mechanisms such as direct interspecies electron transfer or electron shuttles. In this project we will investigate the presence and nature of such interactions. Our hypothesis is that long-distance electron transport in aquatic sediments is not exclusively mediated by cable bacteria, but could involve a consortium of cable bacteria and associated partner microbes. Field sampling in marine and brackish environments will be combined with targeted incubation experiments in the laboratory. Next generation sequencing methods and microscopy will be applied, and correlation analysis will unravel associations between cable bacteria and other microbes. Metatranscriptomes will shed light on potential electric or metabolic interactions. The project will improve our understanding of electrogenic sediments, with potentially important implications for sediment biogeochemistry and microbial ecology.

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Real-time and spatially distributed monitoring of microclimate. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

Recently, climate change impacts have become strikingly tangible, with prolonged periods of drought and temperature records being broken. These weather extremes strongly impact soil ecosystem services, with potentially important economic consequences for agriculture, nature conservation, garden maintenance and other sectors. Society increasingly needs to cope with these impacts, thus spurring new economic activities that demand large-scale heat and drought monitoring. In this PhD project, I will pioneer cost-effective approaches for large soil microclimate networks that involve 1000s of monitoring locations. These allow to assess the vulnerability of soil ecosystems to heat and drought, and verify whether implemented adaptation measures are effective (e.g. water infiltration and soil moisture buffering). As a proof of concept, extensive microclimate networks will be deployed in gardens and nature reserves across Flanders, taking advantage of the new TMS-NB sensor, which enables low-cost and real-time measurements of soil temperature and moisture through the Internet of Things. This new data source will allow identifying the drivers of spatiotemporal variability in microclimate along the urban-rural gradient. Novel software tools will be developed for the data streams originating from these sensor networks, thus making the resulting data and insights readily available to relevant societal actors (e.g. farmers, garden maintenance, nature reserve managers).

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remote sensing data for measuring suspended solid concentrations 01/06/2021 - 31/08/2023

Abstract

In principle, it is possible to determine SPM based on satellite images for a large part of the Scheldt estuary. Nevertheless, a number of challenges need to be tackled in the Zeeschelde and Boven-Zeeschelde in particular. There, the river is only 1 or a few pixels wide in places (Sentinel 2 spatial resolution: 10m-20m). Furthermore, the tidal action continuously ensures resuspension and settling. The SPM concentration at the surface therefore exhibits strong temporal variability, which complicates the interpretation of a snapshot based on satellite image. Drones offer a possible solution to both problems, but have their own difficulties (flight planning, weather conditions). In this study, methods are developed to determine SPM in the estuary from satellite and drone images, using continuous data for calibration.

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Exploration of the technological potential of cable bacteria for bio-electronics. 01/06/2021 - 31/05/2023

Abstract

Recently, an entirely new type of bacteria has been discovered that can conduct high electrical currents over centimeters long distances via long, thin fibers embedded in the cell sheath. Recent studies show that these fibers have electrical abilities in power, including electrical conductivity data that exceeds that of all biological materials by orders of magnitude. The ambition of this project is to investigate investigate whether and how the fiber structures of cable bacteria can be used as components in a new generation of biocompatible and biodegradable electronic devices.

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Research on the effects of re-meandering pilot project in the Demer valley 01/06/2021 - 31/08/2022

Abstract

In many valleys in Flanders, rivers have been straightened to improve drainage, rapid evacuation of rainwater and optimize land use for agriculture. Doing so, the ecology of these rivers declined and hence the delivery of important ecosystem services. With climate change, the demand for certain ecosystem services is steadily increasing. River valleys are already now often suffering periods of drought during summer, and climate change scenarios predict more problems in the future. In this project, we will investigate if and how reconnecting former meanders in the Demer valley (Flanders, Belgium) can mitigate climate change problems and restore ecosystem functioning, with focus on drought prevention, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Research and monitoring of the first phase of this restoration project should give more insight in the efficiency of these measures, and result in advice to improve future projects.

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Soil microbes as barometer for climate change impact and anthropogenic pressures on ecosystem health. 01/04/2021 - 31/03/2022

Abstract

Climate change is hitting ever closer to home, with more and more extreme weather events in our region, such as intense rainfall, longer periods of drought and longer heatwaves. To study the impacts of climate change, researchers rely on climate data derived from weather station networks. It is however the local climate near the ground that dictate ecosystem processes such as primary production and hydrological, nutrient, and carbon cycles. These microclimates arise primarily from the soil, vegetation, and topography, but are also affected by land use and land management, especially in urban and anthropogenic environments. Assessing microclimates can – in contrast to the current weather station networks - provide ecologically relevant and sound climate data for modelling biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Important drivers in ecosystem functioning are the soil microbial communities. Both climate change or changes in land use are shown to cause losses in microbial diversity and abundance, and are thus linked to a lower stability of the ecosystem functions. Attempts to quantify the impact of climate change and anthropogenic land use on microbial communities are however hampered by the absence of accurate data, both on the local climatic conditions (e.g. the localized severity of heatwaves and droughts) and on the associated microbial communities (e.g. practical issues limiting measurements on private lands). Here, we propose to assess 250 carefully selected privately-managed soils for bacterial and fungal diversity, composition and abundance. By framing this project proposal within the large-scale citizen science project "CurieuzeNeuzen In De Tuin", we have access to a widespread network of 5000 microclimate weather stations over Flanders, quantifying soil temperature and soil moisture in-situ. In addition, information on a wide array of other soil conditions, such as pH, soil texture, bulk density and organic carbon content, as well as information on local land use and management will be obtained in this project. By combining these datasets with DNA-analysis of the soil microbial community, we can identify the factors driving (or disturbing) the microbial diversity, composition and abundance and even identify keystone species for a healthy soil.

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CuriousNoses BXL. A Citizen Science campaign for air quality measurement in Brussels. 01/02/2021 - 30/04/2022

Abstract

CurieuzeNeuzen' (CN) is a large-scale citizen science project on the measurement of NO2 pollution in the Brussels Capital Region. CN will answer following fundamental question on the population exposure to traffic-related air pollution: 'How many inhabitants of Brussels live in places where the air quality exceeds the EU and WHO norms for the NO2 ambient air concentrations?'. To answer this question, CN will mobilize and engage many citizens to measure NO2 concentrations during one month in 3000 locations across the Brussels Capital Region. This will provide the necessary "Big Data" to answer the research question in a scientific way. During execution of the project, CN focuses on three goals: (1) it strives for significant social impact (creating awareness about the health impacts of pollution, and value and importance of clean air), (2) it enables innovative data collection that allows to make important scientific progress (through mass-scale data collection aided by citizens) and (3) it contributes to the public agenda for policy making (providing reliable data for science-based air quality policies).

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Quantitative modelling of negative emissions through coastal enhanced silicate weathering. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

The societal challenge of limiting global warming to <2°C by 2100 cannot be achieved by reducing fossil fuel emissions alone (i.e. traditional mitigation), but requires that CO2 is actively captured from the atmosphere via negative emission technologies (NETs). Enhanced silicate weathering (ESW) is a promising candidate NET that uses the natural process of silicate weathering for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. By deliberately introducing fast-weathering silicate minerals into the coastal zone, one could create a coastal CO2 sink. A principal advantage of ESW over other NETs is that it counteracts ocean acidification and that it can be directly integrated into existing coastal management programs with existing (dredging) technology. Whilst the geochemical basis is firmly established and ESW has been proven to work in laboratory conditions, real life applications are hampered by uncertainties regarding CO2 sequestration rates and possible trace metal release. In this project, we will develop a quantitative biogeochemical sediment model that describes the dissolution of silicate minerals in marine sediments during ESW applications. The model will be validated by data from the international ESW mesocosm facility recently established in Oostende. From the model two critical tools will be derived, that will predict CO2 sequestration rates and trace metal release during real life ESW applications.

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Effects of El Niño and mangrove deforestation on extreme high water level dynamics in a tropical delta 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

River deltas are hotspots of human activity, but their vulnerability to flood risks is increasing due to climate warming and worldwide conversion of natural floodplains into human land use (LU). Although previous studies have demonstrated that natural wetlands can play a key role in reducing extreme high water levels on small to intermediate scales (~1 – 10 km²), limited knowledge exists on how wetland conversion to human LU affects amplification of high water levels at the scale of whole deltas (~10² - 10³ km²). This particularly holds true for tropical deltas, where mangrove conversion to aquaculture is widespread and where extreme high water levels are caused by specific climate fluctuations such as El Niño. This project aims to yield a fundamental understanding on how the spatial configuration of mangrove versus aquaculture areas impacts the distribution of high water levels in the Guayas delta (Ecuador), where El Niño is the main driver of extreme high water level events. A combination of field measurements, analysis of existing data and hydrodynamic modelling will be used to reach novel scientific insights on the effects of El Niño and mangrove deforestation on high water levels in a tropical delta. Such knowledge is relevant to support sustainable development of delta societies.

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Aquatic ecosystem functioning and global change. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

It is common knowledge that natural ecosystems are globally under threat. This is largely because of human activities. By misusing the land, polluting rivers and lakes with chemicals and agricultural fertilizers, releasing alien species from around the world, and altering climatic conditions, we are changing the world we live in. Scientific research to find ways to respond to these challenges can provide solutions to halt the deterioration, and restore the functioning of our valuable freshwater ecosystems. In my research I will endeavour to better understand how ecosystems work with the aim of discovering what we can do to relieve them from the pressures they are under. Rather than studying each pressure source independently, I intend to focus on the combination of different pressure elements working together, which is closer to the reality of the situation.

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River ecosystem impact of the invasive Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

The impact of invasive species on ecosystems can cause habitat alteration or even habitat loss. This could ultimately lead to fundamental effects on ecosystem functioning. This project is focused on the case of the Chinese mitten crab (CMC). This is a new species and the only freshwater crab species in Flanders. Being the largest representative of the macroinvertebrates, it probably takes a prominent role in the processing of organic matter. This could have a profound effect on nutrient cycling and water quality in general. Through bioturbation, burrowing behaviour and their destructive impact on macrophytes, the CMC potentially impacts also the stability of river ecosystems, which may lead to enhanced erodibility. By investigating these different effects, this project will give fundamental insight in the impact of freshwater crab species on aquatic habitats along the river continuum.

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How mutual interactions between tidal marsh plants, waves and sediments, determine nature-based shoreline protection capacity. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Tidal marshes are vegetated areas situated along coasts and tidal rivers, which are regularly inundated by tides. Recent studies have highlighted the important role of tidal marshes in protecting the hinterland from the impact of waves, called 'nature-based shoreline protection'. Plants form a barrier for waves, because they are able to weaken the energy of the waves and they reduce erosion of the soil. During winter, this vegetation typically dies off. However, questions remain on how effective marsh vegetation is for shoreline protection, such as: (1) 'Is the effectiveness of wave and soil erosion reduction different in winter or summer?';(2) 'Are some plant species better than others in reducing waves and erosion?'; (3) 'Are some plant species better in coping with the stress they encounter from wave activity, and does that result in the spatial plant species distribution we see in the field, with some species growing close to the water channel, while others more landward?'. In this project I will address these questions in an integrated way: I will investigate the two-way interactions between waves and plants, how that results in the spatial plant species distribution, and how that spatial plant zonation affects the effectiveness of wave and erosion reduction, and hence the shoreline protection capacity of tidal marshes.

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CurieuzeNeuzen in de tuin 23/09/2020 - 22/03/2023

Abstract

The citizen science project CURIEUZENEUZEN VLAANDEREN on air quality in 2018 will have a successor: "CURIEUZENEUZEN IN THE GARDEN". In the spring of 2021, 5000 families will have the opportunity to equip their garden with a soil weather station. This weather station will be centrally located in the lawn and will monitor the temperature and soil moisture online for six months (April 1 to September 30). With this research we want to obtain a large-scale picture of drought stress in Flanders. The 5000 participants will also collect soil samples in their gardens, which will provide a detailed picture of the carbon content in the garden soils in Flanders. Thanks to this research, we obtain important scientific insights into resilience against weather extremes, and we can sensitize the general public about climate adaptation.

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Project website

Sustainable marine ecosystem services (SUMES). 01/09/2020 - 31/08/2023

Abstract

The SUMES project aims to develop a comprehensive model to assess the impact of human-induced changes on the marine ecosystem and beyond. The model investigates the structure (e.g. biodiversity) and function (e.g. food chains, biogeochemistry) of the marine ecosystem, its capacity to provide goods and services (e.g. sequestration of carbon) and the effect of activities on the aforementioned aspects. The model integrates Ecosystem Services, Risk Assessment and Life Cycle Assessment methods and indicators, which will be aggregated at the level of U+2018endpointsU+2019 or U+2018Areas of ProtectionU+2019, and serves therefore as a decision support model. The objective is to gain improved knowledge of cause-effect chains, with human activities being the stressor or cause, and the effects are the impact on local (to a specific marine ecosystem), regional (e.g. the North Sea) and global (to humans and nature) scale. A thorough understanding and quantification of the mechanisms is currently lacking in scientific literature, especially for the marine environment. Validation of the model is based on case studies related to the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS).

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CuriousNoses Europe - Up-Scaling Citizen-Based Air Quality Monitoring. 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2022

Abstract

The SEP grant will be used to prepare, file and kickstart the Curious Noses Europe project. This project will demonstrate how large-scale citizen science can make a unique and disruptive contribution to better air quality in Europe. The ambition is to capitalise on the transformative potential of citizen science for generating large-scale, high-quality, and openly available NO2 data sets, allowing for new research questions to be addressed as well as revealing policy-relevant insights. By empowering 1000s of citizens in air quality monitoring, EU wide air quality research and policy can be accelerated. Starting from the very successful CurieuzeNeuzen project, the aim of Curious Noses Europe is to scale up this approach to other EU cities, thereby addressing one of the key challenges of citizen science: scalability.

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Project website

Microbial Systems Technology (MST). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

Microorganisms have been exploited from the earliest times for baking, brewing, and food preservation. More recently, the enormous versatility in biochemical and physiological properties of microbes has been exploited to create new chemicals and nanomaterials, and has led to bio-electrical systems employed for clean energy and waste management. Moreover, it has become clear that humans, animals and plants are greatly influenced by their microbiome, leading to new medical treatments and agricultural applications. Recent progress in molecular biology and genetic engineering provide a window of opportunity for developing new microbiology-based technology. Just as advances in physics and engineering transformed life in the 20th century, rapid progress in (micro)biology is poised to change the world in the decades to come. The Excellence Centre "Microbial Systems Technology" (MST) will assemble and consolidate the expertise in microbial ecology and technology at UAntwerpen, embracing state-of-the-art technologies and interdisciplinary systems biology approaches to better understand microbes and their environment and foster the development of transformational technologies and applications. MST connects recently established research lines across UAntwerpen in the fields of microbial ecology, medical microbial ecology, plant physiology, biomaterials and nanotechnology with essential expertise in Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics. By joining forces, new and exciting developments can be more quickly integrated into research activities, thus catalyzing the development of novel microbial products and processes, including functional food, feed and fertilizers, probiotics, and novel biosensors and bio-electronics applications. This way, MST aims for an essential contribution to the sustainable improvement of human health and the environment.

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Investigation of microbial long-distance electron transport via spectroscopy and electrochemistry. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous bacteria have been discovered in marine sediments, which are capable of generating and mediating electricity over centimeter-scale distances. These so-called "cable bacteria" have evolved a new mechanism for mediating electrical currents, which extends the known length scale of microbial electron transmission by two orders of magnitude. Cable bacteria are multi-cellular and possess a unique energy metabolism, in which electrons are passed on from cell to cell along a chain of 10.000 cells. This biological innovation equips them with a competitive advantage for survival within the seafloor environment. Microbial long-distance electron transport is a disruptive finding, both in terms of new biology as well as potential new technology. The capability of cable bacteria to transport electrons over centimeter distances implies that biological evolution must have somehow developed a highly conductive, organic structure. If these conductive structures inside cable bacteria could be somehow harnessed in an engineered way, this could pave the way for entirely new materials and applications in bio-electronics. To better grasp the wide reaching implications of long-distance electron transport, we need to better understand how the phenomenon works. Here, science is faced with an important challenge: it remains a conundrum how electrons are transported through a cable bacterium. Therefore, the prime objectives of this project are (1) to resolve the conductive structures and mechanism responsible for microbial long-distance transport and (2) to characterize their physical structure, chemical composition and electrical properties. The foundational pillar of this project are recently acquired data demonstrating that cable bacteria can be connected to electrodes and revealing that the cell envelope of cable bacteria contains highly conductive structures.

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Coastal marsh resilience to sea level rise: a field, flume and modelling study on the role of bio-geomo hic self-organization. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Tidal marshes are valuable coastal ecosystems that are threatened by global climate warming and resulting sea level rise. Whether they drown or continue to exist while sea level rises, depends on the trapping of sediments (sand and mud) that builds up the land surface. The sediment trapping is locally determined by so-called bio-geomo hic interactions between plants, water flow, and landform changes. However, the larger landscape also self-organizes by developing a channel network between vegetation patches, and by transporting the sediment through the channels towards the marsh. We will investigate how the small-scale (m²) bio-geomo hic interactions determine the large-scale (km²) self-organization of tidal marsh landscapes and how this affects their adaptability to sea level rise. The aim of this project is to investigate, for the first time, the impact of specific traits of plant species on the self-organization and capacity of marshes to rise with sea level. We test the hypotheses that (1) different plant species lead to the formation of different self-organized tidal channel networks; and (2) the resulting channel networks determine the efficiency to distribute and trap sediments in response to sea level rise. This will be investigated based on a unique combination of field surveys, scaled lab experiments, and computer simulations.

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CurieuzeNeuzen duikt onder 01/01/2020 - 15/03/2023

Abstract

CurieuzeNeuzen is back, but now with a focus on climate adaptation. Whereas the original CurieuzeNeuzen citizen science project has moved mountains with respect to public participation in air quality, "CurieuzeNeuzen goes underground " wants to work on climate awareness in a large-scale way. To this end, we are going to monitor the impact of weather extremes and increasing drought, where citizens notice it first: in their own garden. This garden is close to the heart of Flanders, so the tens of thousands of lawns in Flanders are the ideal canvas for an innovative citizen science project on climate adaptation. Via a large-scale network of thousands of "mini weather station networks" we will measure the soil temperature and soil moisture throughout Flanders, both at home in gardens, as well as in public gardens and parks. This measurement campaign has a specific scientific purpose: we will answer the important question of how resilient our gardens are against future climate change and extreme weather conditions, and what the effect of our garden and landscape management is on that resilience. We take into account the effect of urban heat islands, but also the impact of small, local interventions, such as planting trees and the frequency of mowing. The result is a detailed drought map for Flanders in which risk areas are mapped and, for science, an extensive and internationally unique database on the impact of increasing weather extremes on the soil climate. But above all, we aim for a large-scale awareness of the drought problem in Flanders, and what we can do about this, both as individual and as society.

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The importance of microphytobenthos in sustainable ecosystem management: benthic primary production and sediment stability in estuaries. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Microphytobenthos (MPB), the algae that inhabit the intertidal mudflats, are important for the functioning of estuarine ecosystems. Their high primary production is critical, producing oxygen and sustaining the highly biodiverse estuarine food web. MPB community also excrete sticky substances that decrease sediment resuspension in the water column and increase the light climate needed for primary production. Unfortunately, these mudflats are under thread of increased hydrodynamic stress due to, amongst others, increased tidal amplitude by sea level rise and management such as channel deepening. In the Scheldt estuary there has been a strong increase in turbidity of the water column, negatively affecting the primary production. Legislations enforce the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem and therefore we need good understanding of the role of biological components, such as MPB, in estuarine ecosystem functioning. The MPB community in estuaries varies over the salinity gradient, and of some algal groups their effect on ecosystem functioning remains hardly studied. Furthermore, the importance of small-scale variation in benthic primary production (BPP) on ecosystem scale needs to be identified. Therefore, this project will tackle the central knowledge gaps: 1) quantify the benthic primary production, 2) relate this sediment stabilization potential and 3) implement these functions in a calculation tool for ecosystem functioning.

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Quantifying and modelling soil carbon accumulation in mangrove forests in response to sea level rise. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Mangrove forests are coastal wetlands with highly valued functions, including climate regulation by capturing atmospheric CO2 and storing it into soil organic carbon (SOC). Mangroves and their SOC accumulation function are at risk to be lost by sea level rise (SLR) by the end of the 21st century. Mangroves are known to have a certain capacity to adapt to SLR by raising their elevation via sediment and SOC accumulation. But present insights and models, allowing to estimate changes in SOC accumulation rates in response to future SLR scenarios, are poorly developed. Here we will conduct for the first time an integrated field and modelling study on feedbacks between rates of SLR, sediment and SOC accumulation in mangroves. This will be studied in the Guayas river delta in Ecuador. We will test the hypotheses that: (1) the adaptability of mangroves to SLR is governed by the strength of feedbacks between increasing tidal flooding, sediment and SOC accumulation rates; (2) the strength of these feedbacks depends on the location along the land-to-sea gradient within a delta, with mangroves in river-dominated parts of a delta having more capacity to accrete sediments and SOC in balance with SLR; while marine-dominated parts of a delta will be more vulnerable to mangrove drowning by SLR. This project will generate novel scientific insights that will feed the development of an innovative model to simulate how SOC accumulation in mangroves will respond to future SLR.

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Compositional characterization of the conductive structures enabling centimetre-scale electron transport in cable bacteria. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous "cable bacteria" have been discovered, which are capable of mediating large electrical currents over centimetre-scale distances. This finding extends the known length scale of microbial electron transmission by three orders of magnitude, and implies that biological evolution has somehow generated a highly conductive, organic structure. This is remarkable as biological materials are known to be poorly conductive. If the conductive structures inside cable bacteria could somehow be exploited in an engineered way, this could pave the way for entirely new materials and applications in bio-electronics. To better grasp the wide reaching implications, we need to better understand the phenomenon of microbial long-distance electron transport. Yet presently, it remains a conundrum how electrons are transported through cable bacteria. Recently data demonstrate that the cell envelope of cable bacteria contains highly conductive fibre structures. The prime objective of this project is to resolve the protein composition of these conductive fibre structures. To this end, I will use an approach that combines genomics and proteomics. I aim to find out what makes the proteins in the fibre structures conductive, where they evolutionary come from, and how they function. If we can determine the proteins involved in long-distance electron transport, we can learn more about how this extraordinary mechanism works.

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Greenhouse gas emissions from rewetted and eutrophied fens: from carbon sink to source? 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Fens are nutrient-poor wetlands characterized by active accumulation of organic plant matter (peat). This process requires waterlogged conditions and low microbial activity. Fens are important global sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), an important greenhouse gas (GHG). Unfortunately very few undisturbed fens remain, and most fens have been drained by human activity. Drainage triggers a myriad of cascading effects on fen biogeochemistry, vegetation and microbiology, and turns fens into sources of CO2. To make matters worse, fens are also increasingly threatened by nitrogen (N) enrichment. This may hamper peat formation, and could increase emissions of other potent GHGs such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The idea that degraded fens can quickly be restored by raising water levels seems naïve: recent observations suggest that rewetted fens often become nutrient-rich marshes. The effect of the drainage-rewetting cycle on GHG emissions is largely unknown, but might be dramatic. In this project, I will disentangle the interactive effects of fen hydrology and nitrogen enrichment on GHG emission. Moreover, I will investigate the influence of shifts in plant- and microbial community composition on altered GHG emissions. We hypothesize that drainage and N enrichment turn fens from sinks into sources of GHGs, and that this is partly due to shifts in plant- and microbial community composition. This change may be irreversible within human time-scales.

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Enhanced silicate weathering as CO2 removal strategy in coastal environments. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

To reach the Paris climate goals, conventional CO2 mitigation alone will not be sufficient, and large-scale deployment of negative emission technologies (NET) will be needed to extract CO2 back from the atmosphere. At present however, the feasibility, efficiency and environmental impact of currently proposed NETs is poorly constrained. This project will quantitatively investigate these issues for enhanced silicate weathering (ESW) in coastal environments, which is a newly proposed NET. The principle behind ESW is that the weathering of silicates releases alkalinity, which increases the CO2 uptake capacity of the ocean. To get a quantitative and mechanistic understanding of ESW under realistic conditions we will combine experimental work, field sampling and modelling efforts. In a large mesocosm facility, we will investigate the rate of olivine weathering, the effect on local geochemistry, the CO2 sequestration efficiency and the possible release of harmful trace metals (nickel, chromium). To examine effects on a longer timescale, we will perform a detailed geochemical assessment of two specific field sites, which have natural olivine weathering. All results will be analyzed using a comprehensive numeric modelling environment to fully unravel the connection between ESW and other biogeochemical processes. The results of this project will provide a first quantitative insight into the potential of coastal ESW as a negative emission technology.

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Tidal marshes: bio-geomorphic self-organization and its implications for resilience to sea level rise and changing sediment supply (TIGER). 01/09/2019 - 31/08/2022

Abstract

Intertidal landscapes are complex environments located between the land and sea, and that are regularly flooded by tides. They provide highly valuable ecosystem services that are threatened by sea level rise and changing sediment supply. Previous studies showed that the small-scale (order of m2) interactions between vegetation dynamics, water flow and sediment transport (so-called bio-geomorphic feedbacks) have a great impact on channel network formation and evolution at the landscape-scale (order of km2). We call this process bio-geomorphic self-organization. The aim of this project is to investigate, for the first time, the impact of plant species traits on biogeomorphic self-organization of intertidal landscapes. More specifically, we hypothesize that (1) different plant species traits lead to the self-organization of different channel network patterns, and (2) the resulting self-organized landscape structures determine the efficiency to distribute and trap sediments on the intertidal floodplain, and hence the resilience (adaptability) of the landscape to sea level rise and decreasing sediment supply. By using a combination of computer model simulations and field observations, we aim at producing new fundamental knowledge on landscape selforganization by bio-geomorphic feedbacks, and its implications for the resilience of intertidal landscapes against environmental changes.

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Application potential of autochthonous fish populations for biological control of dipteran nuisance species in flooding areas. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

In this project, the conditions for native fish to be used as biological control in restored tidal marshes is investigated. Using native fish may not only be extremely cost-effective, improving the conditions will also improve restored flooding areas as habitats for fish at the same time. Information will be collected on the current distribution and habitat preferences of nuisance species and native fish communities in three flooding areas along the Scheldt estuary. The first is a flooding area which had very recent serious outbreaks of midges. This area is connected to a second and neighboring a third flooding area, which both have a different design as the first and which have no issues with outbreaks. The collected field information will be combined with experiments that look at which factors can help fish to eat more nuisance species and to create habitat suitability models. These are models that can be used to predict the risk of nuisance species outbreaks. They will also show the conditions that are important for fish in flooding areas. These models can be used to evaluate and potentially improve any of the flooding areas in Flanders and abroad. They will be made public to policymakers and project managers and companies involved in the construction and restoration of flooding areas to be used as a tool for controlling nuisance species and improving flooding areas for fish.

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Negative emissions through enhanced mineral weathering in the coastal zone. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Negative emission technologies target the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and are being actively investigated as a strategy to limit global warming to within a 2°C increase. Enhanced silicate weathering (ESW) is an approach that uses the natural process of silicate weathering for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. The geochemical basis is firmly established: during dissolution of silicate minerals in seawater, CO2 is consumed and sequestered into the ocean. Hence, by deliberately introducing fast-weathering silicate minerals into the coastal zone, one could create a coastal CO2 sink. A principal advantage of ESW over other negative emission technologies is that it also counteracts ocean acidification and that it can be directly integrated into existing coastal management programs with existing technology. Although model studies show its feasibility, there has been no rigorous assessment of its CO2-sequestration efficiency and environmental impacts, which are bottlenecks to its commercial implementation. In this project, we will conduct a set of large-scale experiments to investigate the rate of ESW and associated CO2 uptake under realistic natural settings (bioturbation, waves, currents) as well as potentially important influences on the biogeochemical cycling in coastal ecosystems (release of trace metals, alkalinity and dissolved silicate).

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Research team(s)

Elucidating the mechanism of microbial long-distance electron transport. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous "cable bacteria" have been discovered, which are capable of mediating large electrical currents over centimeter-scale distances. This finding extends the known length scale of microbial electron transmission by three orders of magnitude, and implies that biological evolution has somehow generated a highly conductive, organic structure. This is remarkable as biological materials are known to be poorly conductive. Microbial long-distance electron transport is a disruptive finding, both in terms of new biology as well as in terms of new technology. If the conductive structures inside cable bacteria could be somehow harnessed in an engineered way, this could pave the way for entirely new materials and applications in bio-electronics. To better grasp the wide reaching implications, we need to better understand the phenomenon of microbial long-distance electron transport. Yet presently, it remains a conundrum how electrons are transported through cable bacteria. Recently we obtained a breakthrough by connecting cable bacteria to electrodes and measuring the electrical current. These data demonstrate that the cell envelope of cable bacteria contains highly conductive structures. The prime objectives of this project are to resolve the physical structure and chemical composition of these conductive structures. Additionally, we will determine the underlying mechanism of electron transport and the electrical properties of the conductive structures.

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Research team(s)

Biogeochemical cycling, redox transformations and microbial actors in electrified sediment ecosystems. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

In 2010 a perplexing discovery was made: marine microbes are generating electrical currents within the seafloor that extend over centimeter scale distances. Long filamentous microbes, called "cable bacteria", transport electrons from cell to cell along a chain of more than 10.000 cells. Dense populations of these cable bacteria make the seafloor operate like an electrical battery. This newly discovered process of long-distance microbial electricity is fundamentally different from neural conduction or other known conduction mechanisms in biology, and equips the cable bacteria with a competitive advantage for survival in the seafloor. Recent data on microbial diversity and activity in sediments with long-distance electron transport suggest that other microbial actors are involved and that other electron donors are used beside free sulfide. Hence, the basic hypothesis of this FWO project is that long-distance electron transport has a far stronger impact on the biogeochemical cycling and microbial ecology of natural sediment ecosystems than currently thought. Long-distance electron transport can drive redox transformations other than aerobic sulfide oxidation, and may involve players other than cable bacteria.

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Restoring raw water resources through landscape restoration. 13/11/2018 - 12/11/2022

Abstract

Collaboration between PIDPA and UAntwerpen for supporting research that focuses on restoring raw water resources through landscape restoration. Such research is part of the central mission of PIDPA to protect future potential drinking water sites. The aim of the support is to enable research activities that are synergetic with the Interreg project PROWATER, which stands for 'protecting and restoring raw water sources through actions at the landscape scale', and contributes to climate adaptation by restoring the water storage of the landscape via 'ecosystem-based adaptation measures'. UAntwerpen fulfills a crucial role by taking on the substantive coordination and scientific underpinning of this project.

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The electrical biopshere in the ocean floor: microbial players and interactions. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous bacteria have been discovered in marine sediments, which are capable of generating and mediating electricity over centimeter-scale distances. Recent evidence convincingly suggests that these so-called cable bacteria are not acting alone, and that likely an electron exchange occurs between cable bacteria and other microbes in the seafloor. Somehow, other bacteria appear to exploit the electrical network provided by the cable bacteria. In this project, we will examine the microbial players that are involved, and how they interact. In this way, this project will improve our fundamental understanding of ecosystem functioning of the ocean floor.

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Research team(s)

Protecting and restoring raw water sources through actions at the landscape scale (PROWATER). 01/09/2018 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

The cross-border project PROWATER stands for 'protecting and restoring raw water sources through actions at the landscape scale', and contributes to climate adaptation by restoring the water storage of the landscape via 'ecosystem-based adaptation measures'. Examples of this are forest conversion, natural water retention or restoration of soil compaction. These interventions increase resilience against droughts and floods and benefit water quality and biodiversity. During the next years project partners in Flanders, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will carry out various exemplary projects on site and will showcase them to the public. The benefits of the measures will be identified so that a 'Payment for Ecosystem Services' model can be developed. Based on this model, organizations that take measures to combat water scarcity can receive compensation. In return, they provide services to society by improving the quality of the living environment. Finally, the project wants to close the information gap with policy and the water user, by developing a vision to tackle water scarcity and drought risks in the long term.

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Research team(s)

Quantification and characterization of the plastic flux in the Scheldt, with a view to an efficient remediation of this waste problem. 01/02/2018 - 31/01/2022

Abstract

his research initially aims to quantify the plastic flux on the scale of a complete basin, from the smaller tributaries, effluents from water purification stations, docks and canals to the estuary and the sea. Where are the largest sources of plastic waste? What is the residence time of this waste? Are there sinks, zones with long retention of plastic waste in the river system? Quantification of the plastic flux through the entire continuum from the basin to the mouth is essential for the elaboration of an efficient remediation strategy. This study is limited to the macroplastics. After all, relatively realistic removal strategies can still be designed for this fraction, the ultimate goal of this project. In addition, a large part of the microplastics is caused by disintegration of macroplastics. By macroplastics we mean pieces of plastic such as bottles, plastic bags, ropes, .... Plastic pellets will also receive extra attention, since these are sometimes prominently present in the water and on the bank in the Scheldt and the port area. The second objective of this research project is to look for an efficient remediation. Where can you intervene, and how? This project does not aim to develop technical constructions itself, but the effect of existing technologies can be estimated. For example: What effect does a limitation of overflow on the total plastic flux to the North Sea have? Which fraction can be caught with a floating position in the port? The Scheldt basin is selected as a case. To answer the research questions, a monitoring network is developed. Plastic waste is collected at dams, locks, water purification plants, etc. In this way, plastic fluxes from sub-basins, docks, ... can be calculated and an estimate is made of the total flux towards the estuary. In the estuary, the stock is determined by plastic (by means of a deviation) and point measurements (eg cooling water intake points) are used to estimate the flux.

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Research team(s)

Coastal biogeochemistry. 01/09/2017 - 31/08/2022

Abstract

The coastal ocean is hotspot of global change. The human imprint on the coastal zone is sharply increasing, both in arctic, temperate and tropical regions. Coastal ecosystems are exposed to increased nutrient inputs (eutrophication), higher risk of oxygen depletion (hypoxia), and ongoing changes in the chemical composition of seawater (ocean acidification), which may lead to strong and rapid changes in element cycling and food web functioning. In order to understand how coastal ecosystems are affected by these aspects of global change, we must improve our understanding of coastal biogeochemistry. This project will adopt a multi-disciplinary perspective which allows us better to understand, quantify, and predict the interactions between physical forces (e.g. stratification), chemical transformations (e.g. carbonate thermodynamics) and biological processes (e.g. phytoplankton productivity).

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Research team(s)

Determination of physical system characteristics of the Scheldt estuary necessary for good ecological functioning. 01/12/2016 - 30/11/2022

Abstract

research in recent years has shown the complex interwovenness of hydrodynamics, morphodynamics and ecological functioning of the Scheldt estuary. This complexity together with the large-scale changes (both land and water management in the river basin and climate change) confront the manager with ever-increasing problems and challenges. That is why it is crucial to have the best possible insight into the functioning of the system so that these control measures can be taken to achieve the intended goal by maximizing the functioning of the system or in other words by using the natural as much as possible. making processes contribute to achieving the goals. This research focuses on both physical system characteristics and the estimation of the benthic primary production.

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Past projects

Stability of a tidal marsh under extreme flow conditions: a flume experiment 18/01/2021 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

Coasts and river mouths (estuaries) are increasingly exposed to flood risks due the global and local changes, resulting in sea level rise, increasing magnitude and frequency of storm surges. This increasing flood risk motivates a paradigm shift towards nature-based flood defense, where engineered flood defense structures (like dikes) are supplemented with conservation or creation of wetlands (like tidal marshes) in front of the dikes, which contribute to lower the flood risks. In this EU-INTERREG project, the combined protective function of dikes and natural wetland foreshores in front of dikes are tested under field and laboratory conditions. In the field, controlled dike breach experiments (in the Hedwige-Prosperpolder, Schelde estuary, Belgium & the Netherlands) are conducted to investigate the process of dike breach growth and the interaction with stability of the vegetated marsh foreshore. More specifically within this sub-project, the stability of the marsh soil and vegetation under extreme flow conditions that occur during dike breaches, is tested in a new tidal flume lab facility at the UAntwerp campus (the so-called Mesodrome). Marsh soil monoliths (0.8 m wide x 1.2 m long x 0.4 m deep) containing the marsh vegetation are excavated from the field and placed in the flume, and the responses of the vegetation and soil to extreme flow velocities (up to 2 m/s) are tested.

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Research team(s)

The electrical biopshere in the ocean floor: microbial players and interactions. 01/10/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous bacteria have been discovered in marine sediments, which are capable of generating and mediating electricity over centimeter-scale distances. Recent evidence convincingly suggests that these so-called cable bacteria are not acting alone, and that maybe an electron exchange between cable bacteria and other microbes in the seafloor. Somehow, other bacteria appear to exploit the electrical network provided by the cable bacteria. In this project, we will examine which microbial players are involved, and how they interact. In this way, this project will improve our fundamental understanding of microbial interactions in the ocean floor.

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Research team(s)

Grassland restoration by soil inoculation: interactions with environmental filters and priority effects. 01/04/2020 - 31/03/2021

Abstract

The majority of originally nutrient-poor grasslands in Western Europe has been eutrophied and degraded by human activities, which has resulted in a loss of associated biodiversity. The re-establishment of nutrient-poor conditions is the first step in grassland restoration, but despite abiotic recovery many restoration grasslands remain stuck in a seemingly stable and species-poor state. Emerging evidence suggests that not only edaphic filters but also dispersal limitation of plants and microbes -and their interactions- drive vegetation assembly. In this project, we use the framework of an existing large-scale and long-term field experiment to investigate if grassland restoration can be steered and accelerated by hay transfer and by inoculation of top soil collected in a mature and species-rich donor grassland. We combine state-of-the-art molecular techniques with methods from biogeochemistry and vegetation science to assess whether soil inoculation has a positive effect on vegetation assembly through the establishment of complex belowground plant-microbial correlation networks, and we investigate if the outcome of soil inoculation is dependent on edaphic properties of the grassland and on restoration treatments, including removal of the existing grass layer. Our interdisciplinary approach allows us to disentangle if, how, and through which mechanisms active manipulation of the soil microbiome affects ecosystem development.

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Research team(s)

Development opportunities for Nardus grasslands on selected parcels in Landschap de Liereman. 13/03/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The central question in this study is whether the development of the microbial community in species-poor grasslands in nature reserve "de Liereman" can be controlled by the introduction of sod cut material collected in species-rich and well-developed reference grasslands ("soil inoculation"). We use state-of-the-art molecular techniques such as metabarcoding and qPCR.

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Research team(s)

Upstream depressional wetlands and flow regulation: evidence on status and function. 01/02/2019 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

Climate change projections point towards dryer summers. This will lead to a higher demand for water production. The aim of this research is to investigate the impact of drainage on the (water) regulating functions of upstream depressional wetlands (UDWs). We hypothesize that undrained UDWs are particularly important for groundwater recharge. Typically, undrained UDWs respond quickly to both wet and dry periods. They inundate only following periods of rainfall surplus, but their water levels also gradually drop when there is a rainfall deficit. I want to investigate how much water they can buffer and where that water ends up. First, I will use geographic datasets to map the potential occurrence and status UDWs in the Campine region. After conducting field surveys, I will select two well-drained sites and two poorly drained sites which will be intensively monitored during two years. This monitoring data will allow me to make a detailed and rigorous assessment of the regulating services that are affected by drainage management, such as climate regulation and water purification. To make this as tangible as possible to stakeholders, I will use the models to quantify the "deferred infiltration" that took place at these sites preceding major drought episodes. To evaluate the strategic importance of my research, I will assess restoration scenarios for UDWs at the scale of the Campine Region. Finally, I will disseminate my findings to the water sector and initiate follow-up projects.

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Research team(s)

Microbial conductive nanofibers as a radically new type of organic conductors. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Recently, an entirely novel type of marine filamentous bacteria has been discovered that can guide electrical currents over centimeter-long distances. The cell wall of these bacteria contains thin, long fibers that act as conductive structures. New data reveal that these nanofibers possess an extremely high electrical conductivity, which exceeds that of any known biological material by orders of magnitude. The ambition of this project is to unlock the vast technological potential of these newly electronic properties could push electronics far beyond its current limits. Because of their biological origin, the nanofibers are endowed with unique properties, such as biocompatibility, biodegradability, and self-assembly. This combination of properties sets them greatly apart from the conventional conductive materials currently used in organic electronics, and hence provides a large valorization potential, allowing novel disruptive applications in many different areas, such as biosensors, and electricity-based health care. The objective of this project is to further disentangle the chemical structure and composition of the microbial conductive nanofibers, and in this way, reinforce the current IPR position.

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Research team(s)

Bio-geomorphic modelling of the Hedwige-Prosperpolder 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Refinement of the ATMO-Street computermodel on the basis of the CurieuzeNeuzen dataset. 01/11/2018 - 30/04/2019

Abstract

The citizen science project "CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen" has mapped the air quality across Flanders at high spatial resolution. Twenty thousand participants have measured the air quality in their street, which has resulted in an unusually large and powerful dataset. These data will be analysed in the current project and compared to computer simulations of the air quality across Flanders by the ATMOstreet model. The goal is to refine and improve the underlying computer model mode. This will enable to better quantify the exposure of the population towards air pollution, and hence will lead to improved policy support.

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Research team(s)

How mutual interactions between tidal marsh plants, waves and sediments, determine nature-based shoreline protection capacity. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Tidal marshes are vegetated areas situated along coasts and tidal rivers, which are regularly inundated by tides. Recent studies have highlighted the important role of tidal marshes in protecting the hinterland from the impact of waves, called 'nature-based shoreline protection'. Plants form a barrier for waves, because they are able to weaken the energy of the waves and they reduce erosion of the soil. During winter, this vegetation typically dies off. However, questions remain on how effective marsh vegetation is for shoreline protection, such as: (1) 'Is the effectiveness of wave and soil erosion reduction different in winter or summer?';(2) 'Are some plant species better than others in reducing waves and erosion?'; (3) 'Are some plant species better in coping with the stress they encounter from wave activity, and does that result in the spatial plant species distribution we see in the field, with some species growing close to the water channel, while others more landward?'. In this project I will address these questions in an integrated way: I will investigate the two-way interactions between waves and plants, how that results in the spatial plant species distribution, and how that spatial plant zonation affects the effectiveness of wave and erosion reduction, and hence the shoreline protection capacity of tidal marshes.

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Research team(s)

KPP Schelde estuary 01/07/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Deltares has been commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to carry out work for the project "KPP 2018 - WN01 Scheldt estuary" with project number 11202233. Deltares wants to engage a third party to support the main project: Expert support for the discipline Water quality and ecology in general. The expert support includes attending and actively supporting team and workgroup sessions. The support can include the following aspects: giving presentations at a work session, leading workshop sessions about water quality, revision of texts or feedback on specific questions as a result of a work session.

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Research team(s)

Drafting a socio-economic impact analysis plan, economic impact analysis of ecosystem recovery and testing of five case studies. 01/06/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The aim of this assignment is to develop a road map for the preparation and implementation of integrated socio-economic impact analyzes of nature restoration and development projects. These analyzes focus on the impact of nature restoration and development measures on the local economy (economic impact) and local society (social impact) and on socially relevant ecosystem services. More specifically, this assignment covers three objectives: ● The development of a methodology to carry out the aforementioned integrated socio-economic impact analyzes for nature restoration and development projects in a pragmatic and cost-efficient manner and to generate indicators for further analyzes on effectiveness; ● The application of this methodology to five case studies in Flanders and Wallonia to test and tighten the methodology on the one hand and to illustrate the socio-economic impact of the BNIP on the other hand; ● Developing the methodology into a widely applicable scenario for integrated socio-economic impact analyzes in the context of a range of nature restoration and development projects, suitable for selecting and prioritizing future projects, and having specific measures assessed by policy makers and stakeholders. The intended scenario will allow a project leader of nature development projects to: ● Prepare a cost-effective and pragmatic plan of action for a socio-economic impact assessment in the context of European and other grant applications; ● To be able to carry out an impact evaluation efficiently (or have it carried out); ● A cutlery quickly and efficiently

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Research team(s)

Tidal marshes: bio-geomorphic self-organization and its implications for resilience to sea level rise nd changing sediment supply (TIGER). 01/05/2018 - 30/04/2019

Abstract

Intertidal landscapes are complex environments located between land and sea, and that are regularly flooded by tides. They provide highly valuable ecosystem services that are threatened by sea level rise and changing sediment supply. Previous studies showed that the small-scale (order of m2) interactions between vegetation dynamics, water flow and sediment transport (so-called bio-geomorphic feedbacks) have a great impact on channel network formation and evolution at the landscape-scale (order of km2). We call this process bio-geomorphic self-organization. The aim of this project is to investigate, for the first time, the impact of plant species traits on biogeomorphic self-organization of intertidal landscapes. More specifically, we hypothesize that (1) different plant species traits lead to the self-organization of different channel network patterns, and (2) the resulting self-organized landscape structures determine the efficiency to distribute and trap sediments on the intertidal floodplain, and hence the resilience (adaptability) of the landscape to sea level rise and decreasing sediment supply. By using a combination of computer model simulations and field observations, we aim at producing new fundamental knowledge on landscape selforganization by bio-geomorphic feedbacks, and its implications for the resilience of intertidal landscapes against environmental changes.

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Support modeling HPP. 01/05/2018 - 31/10/2018

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Green roofs and walls as a source for ecosystem services in future cities (ECOCITIES). 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Green roofs and walls are considered to be important suppliers of ecosystem services and contribute to a healthier and more biodiverse environment. However, this has never been investigated in a comparative and integrated way for different types of green walls and roofs, which hampers an optimal implementation of these systems. In the framework of the EcoCities project we will perform exactly such an integrated and comparative study. EcoCities will develop and assess approaches for using green walls and roofs to (i) reduce urban pollution, (ii) optimize element cycles, (iii) mitigate water and climate extremes, (iv) enhance urban nature conservation and pollination and (v) improve both mental and physical health of citizens. It will provide a sound evidence base for urban green planning and implementation, exploring the potential for innovation in better linking environmental, social and economic ecosystem services (ES). The study entails an in-depth comparison for all ES listed above between different (regarding plant species and substrate composition) systems of both existing and experimental green walls and roofs. This will lead to an estimation of the relative value of each system in the framework of the ES it provides. For all systems, monetary benefits and costs will be calculated, also taking into account the spatial scale at which these systems are applied. In the second half of the project's duration, the (preliminary) results will already be applied in a number of different test cases in at least four Flemish cities. Ultimately, a scenario assessment tool will be developed by (UA ECOBE Jan Staes) and made publicly available, which can be used by stakeholders (local governments, companies, private persons) to deliberately choose the type of system required for the ecosystem service(s) they aim at in a particular area. The same tools will support policy makers in their decisions towards a sustainable and healthy development of urban areas.

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Research team(s)

Coastal wetland response to sea level rise: an integrative marsh – mangrove study on soil elevation and soil carbon response. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Coastal wetlands, such as tropical mangrove forests and salt marshes in temperate climates, are unique ecosystems that are often feared to be lost by sea level rise. They can however adapt to a rising sea level to some extent by raising their elevation via sediment accumulation, and they can mitigate climate warming by storing carbon from the atmosphere into their soils. Present insights into the feedbacks between the rates of sea level rise, sediment and carbon accumulation mainly come from studies on marshes in temperate climates, while much less is known for tropical mangroves. Here we will conduct for the first time an integrated field and modelling study on these feedbacks in both mangroves and marshes. We will investigate the hypotheses that: (1) the response of mangroves and marshes to sea level rise is governed by similar feedbacks between the degree of flooding (frequency, duration and depth of tidal flooding), sediment and carbon accumulation rates; (2) the specific strength of these feedbacks, and hence the capacity to accumulate soil carbon and build up of soil elevation with sea level rise, differs between mangroves and marshes due to intrinsic vegetation differences. This project will generate a unique comprehensive field data set which will feed the development of a common model for both mangroves and marshes to simulate expected changes in the rates of sediment and carbon accumulation in response to 21st century scenarios of sea level rise. Based on the model and on global datasets we will provide a new assessment of global changes in carbon accumulation rates and in areas of mangroves and marshes under sea level rates expected for the 21st century.

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Research team(s)

Bio-feedbacks on sediment transport in estuaries and coast: the neglected role of phytoplankton dynamics. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The Scheldt estuary is significantly changing due to both climate change and human interventions, like fairway deepening, harbor expansion, etc. Recent monitoring results show a strong increase in turbidity and therefore the fear the system will evolve into a hyper turbid system arises. Since light availability is essential for algae growth, the foundation of the food chain, the evolution to a hyper turbid system can have a drastic impact on all life in the estuary. This worrying increase in turbidity in combination with strong (European) legislation regarding the (ecological) functioning of the Scheldt estuary results in an urgent and strong demand for insight and tools to understand and predict the impact of climate change and (future) human interventions on turbidity and algae growth. Feedback processes between turbidity and algae need explicitly to be taken into account. Therefore the proposal's aim is to study: 1. The impact of turbidity and sediment transport on algae growth 2. Conversely, the impact of algae growth on turbidity and sediment transport. I hypothesize that a sticky substance produced by algae can cause the sediment to flocculate which might have a significant impact on turbidity patterns This proposal will finally result in: 1. Further development of a recent technique to estimate in situ algae growth towards a cost efficient real time monitoring tool 2. A state of the art estuarine model coupling sediment transport and hydrodynamics with algae growth

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Research team(s)

Support participation ESFRI AnaEE 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

he participation in an ESFRI / ANAEE comprises, as our component, the construction of infrastructure and facilities for aquatic research at mesocosm and ecosystem level. This concerns, among other things, the construction of a so-called Flume in the mesocosm facility that was previously acquired with the support of the Hercules Fund. We provide a researcher and technician for the supervision of the construction, the installation of the measuring equipment and the subsequent test phases. During the construction, a lot of technical aspects are discussed and a permanent follow-up is necessary to avoid having to deal with problems afterwards. to sit. . This includes both the purely technical aspects as well as the substantive aspects such as preparing the experiments

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Research team(s)

Research in the framework of the CurieuzeNeuzen project. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The aim of the citizen-science project "CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen" is to map the air quality across the region of Flanders at high resolution. Twenty thousand citizens receive a sensor package to measure the air quality in their street. The concentration of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is measured in ambient by passive samplers (Palmes diffusion tubes). At the international level, this is the first time that at such a large scale citizens become involved in a scientific project on air quality.

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Research team(s)

INTERTIDE: Intercomparison of tidal estuaries in NW Europe. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

INTERTIDE brings together scientists from North West European estuaries that are meso-macrotidal and impacted by human activities, with a long-term data history. We will create a meta-data overview on available data series, coordinate data uniformization and data management that will result in a unique central repository on geomorphological, hydrodynamic and ecological parameters. We will organize multiple thematic meetings to tackle specific questions that are already identified as overarching crucial issues by the participants in this project.

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Research team(s)

Cofinancing CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen citizen science project on air quality 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The aim of the citizen-science project "CurieuzeNeuzen Vlaanderen" is to map the air quality across the region of Flanders at high resolution. The project is a cooperation between University Antwerp, the Flemish Environmental Protection (VMM) Agency en de newspaper De Standaard, with support of HIVA-KUleuven and VITO. Twenty thousand citizens receive a sensor package to measure the air quality in their street. The concentration of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is measured in ambient by passive samplers (Palmes diffusion tubes). At the international level, this is the first time that at such a large scale citizens become involved in a scientific project on air quality.

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Research team(s)

Adapted management and maintenance and small-scale measures in streams. 14/11/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The aim is to draw up differentiated guidelines for effective and cost-efficient small-scale management and maintenance of stream systems (stream and valley), making use of or responding to natural processes, whether or not supported by additional (small-scale) design measures. These guidelines describe the nature, scope, spread over locations, frequency, timing and execution of the named actions. The subgoals are: • Knowledge-building nature-oriented, local management measures (differentiated mowing of streams and streams and the targeted introduction of dead wood, preferably linked to shadows), which are connected with the natural processes in brooks that occur on a higher scale in the catchment area. In this way, specific natural values ​​in brook and stream valley are reinforced or restored. • Developing new knowledge by means of experiments on restoring and strengthening habitat variation and - stability through differentiated management of the stream and the banks to renew and strengthen the existing knowledge based on empirical data. • Communicating existing and new knowledge to management practice.

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Research team(s)

Conductive nanofibers extracted from long marine bacteria: a radically new source material for organic electronics 15/10/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Recently, a novel type of filamentous bacteria has been discovered within the seafloor, which are capable of guiding electrical currents over centimeter-scale distances. Electrons are transported from cell-to-cell along the longitudinal axis of centimeter-long cable bacteria, but the actual physical mechanism of conduction remains elusive. The prime objectives of this FWO project are (1) to identify the conductive structures responsible for microbial long-distance transport and (2) to characterize their electrical properties, and (3) their potential for technological applications. Based on recently acquired data, a model is advanced in which thin fibers within the cell envelope act as the conductive structures. Computer model analysis suggests that these nanofiber structures could possess the highest conductivity and charge mobility of any known biological material, making them a promising new source material for organic electronics. In this FWO project, which involves an interdisciplinary collaboration between marine microbiology and applied physics, we will examine whether these fibers are as conductive as projected, confirming their potential of for novel bioelectronic applications. This will be done by a detailed characterization of the physical structure and electronic properties of these nanofibers. When successful, the nanofibers will be integrated into a prototypes of a micro-electronic device, exploring their potential for next generation electronics.

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Development of quantitative indicators to balance supply and demand of ecosystem services and improve the evaluation of ecosystem management 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Ecosystem losses and degradation is in contrast with the increasing knowledge on the importance of resilient ecosystems to coop with disturbances (e.g. climate change) and to deliver goods and services to society (e.g. food and protection). Managing ecosystems to restore them and deliver particular benefits is challenging because of bio-physical and social complexities. The concept of ecosystem services (ES) offers a framework to make the linkages between ecological and socioeconomic properties and processes. Despite rapid developments in ES research, still no consensus exists on how to measure ES and integrate natural and human sciences. This research project investigates how to calculate the supply and demand of ES as a necessary step for more accurate evaluation of management strategies for the case of estuaries. Five steps are followed: (1) unravel the bio-physical complexity to develop quantitative (and measurable) indicators for the supply of ES, (2) unravel the socio-economic complexity to develop quantitative indicators for the demand and use of ES, (3) develop a qualitative model, based on input from step 1 and 2, as a first step to integrate complex natural and human science aspects, (4) balance supply and demand for ES to identify management needs and opportunities, and (5) develop a tiered method for an ES-based evaluation of management strategies that incorporates complex estuarine ecosystem functioning and stakeholder benefits.

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Research team(s)

The coastal ocean: hotspot of global change. 01/09/2017 - 31/08/2020

Abstract

The coastal ocean is hotspot of global change. The human imprint on the coastal zone is sharply increasing, both in arctic, temperate and tropical regions. Coastal ecosystems are exposed to increased nutrient inputs (eutrophication), higher risk of oxygen depletion (hypoxia), and ongoing changes in the chemical composition of seawater (ocean acidification), which may lead to strong and rapid changes in element cycling and food web functioning. In order to understand how coastal ecosystems are affected by these aspects of global change, we must improve our understanding of coastal biogeochemistry. This project will adopt a multi-disciplinary perspective which allows us better to understand, quantify, and predict the interactions between physical forces (e.g. stratification), chemical transformations (e.g. carbonate thermodynamics) and biological processes (e.g. phytoplankton productivity).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Growing Lake Victoria swamps as potential hippopotamus BSi sinks: impacts on lake eutrophication. 01/09/2017 - 31/08/2018

Abstract

The scientific understanding of the Si cycle has progressed from conceptualizing it as almost purely driven by geological processes, to a much more nuanced understanding that includes biological transformation and cycling. A recent pioneer study showed that the hippopotamus is a key factor in the savannah biogeochemical Si cycle on a regional scale. This has a potentially large impact on downstream lake ecosystem functioning, where Si availability directly affects the principal primary producers -diatoms- which dominate the base of the food web. The objective the current study is to determine the filtering capacity of Wetlands controlling the (biogenic) silica transported by rivers before it enters Lake Victoria. To meet this objective, a joint expedition to the Mara wetlands will be done, together with the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Morogoro (Tanzania). During this expedition we will take water-, sediment- and plant samples to calculate the silica stock and -flux to the Lake.

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Research team(s)

Development of an ecosystem services tool for the optimization of sediment management. 26/06/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The aim of the project is to develop an ecosystem service tool that reveals the relationship between sediment management and the ecosystem services provided. Management based on a balanced delivery of ecosystem services contributes to the restoration or maintenance of a robust, resilient ecosystem. Such ecosystem services management requires integral thinking, encompassing both the complex ecological system and the socio-economic system

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Invasion of the Chinese mitten crabs: are they a threat to our freshwater flora? 01/04/2017 - 31/03/2018

Abstract

The Chinese mitten crab is an invasive exotic species in our freshwater ecosystems and the population seems on the rise in recent years, especially in the upstream reaches of rivers. In these upstream reaches, water plants flourish and fulfill a crucial ecological role in the ecosystem. The effect of the mitten crabs on this aquatic vegetation is poorly understood. A handful of laboratory test show that macrophytes are part of the crab diet, but not exclusively. Also some case studies in the field blame the crabs to have completely clear-cut the entire aquatic vegetation, though there was no conclusive proof for that. Our hypothesis is that mitten crabs are indeed capable of heaving a devastating effect on the aquatic vegetation, but only if this vegetation is already impaired or experiences considerable levels of (abiotic) stress. In this project we will experimentally investigate whether crabs can have a negative effect on aquatic vegetation and whether this effect is bigger when plants are stressed. The studied stresses are EDTA-pollution and light stress, both factors are linked to the earlier mentioned case studies. Combining density data from literature and knowledge on herbivory pressure by certain crab densities will allow estimating the threat these crabs potentially are for the native flora in freshwater rivers.

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Research team(s)

Restoration and prognosis of peat formation in fens - linking diversity in plant functional traits to soil biological and biogeochemical processes (REPEAT-BE). 01/03/2017 - 29/02/2020

Abstract

Belowground biodiversity is formed by fungi, bacteria, archaea, animals and plants that altogether affect soil functioning, particularly by controlling rates of production and decomposition of organic matter. Peat soils, being the most concentrated stores of soil carbon, are formed by a long-term net exceedance of production over decomposition. The REPEAT project addresses the mechanisms contributing to peat formation in fen peatlands in order to improve restoration prospects of these threatened ecosystems that provide vital ecosystem services for mitigation of climate change, regional hydrology, nutrient retention and biodiversity conservation (Bonn et al. 2016) . In Europe most fen peatlands have been severely degraded by land use. Drainage has turned the peatlands from carbon sinks into significant sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) and has made Central Europe – after Indonesia - the second largest hot-spot of peat GHG emissions worldwide (Joosten 2009). Peat formation is a precondition to re-install the vital ecosystem services provided by the fen ecosystem. However, re-establishment of high groundwater tables alone is often not sufficient to restore peat formation (Grootjans et al. 2012). In spite of decades of trials, processes that control peat accumulation (including their rates, pathways and drivers) remain unknown. Previous research on peatland carbon cycling has focused almost exclusively on rainwater-fed bogs with upward growing peatmoss (Sphagnum) as the prevailing mode of peat formation. In contrast, in groundwater-fed fens roots and rhizomes of sedges and grasses grow into the older peat matrix to form 'displacement peat'. Therefore, peat formation models developed for bogs (Clymo et al. 1998, Frolking et al. 2001) do not fully apply to fens. REPEAT aims to clarify the mechanisms of peat formation in fens by linking biogeochemical processes to soil community structure and biodiversity, as well as to plant belowground litter quality, with special focus on the prospects of restoring peat formation mechanisms. Paludiculture (biomass harvest) will receive special attention because it has recently been recognized as an key management approach that allows sustainable use of wet and rewetted peatlands.

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Project website

Improving groundwater dynamics: a key factor for successful tidal marsh restoration? 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

In an attempt to restore the water quality in tidal rivers, governments around the world invest a lot of money in reconverting reclaimed agricultural land to tidal marshes. In North-West Europe, more than 140 tidal marshes have already been restored and scientists predict that many more will follow in the coming decades. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that restored tidal marshes do not contribute to the water quality improving function to the same extent as natural marshes. Researchers found that due to the historical agricultural land use, the soil got compacted, hindering the flow of groundwater in the area. The reduced groundwater flow is thus probably the reason for the observed difference in water quality improvement. Nevertheless, the differences in groundwater dynamics between restored and natural tidal marshes are still poorly understood. In this research, we want to unravel this missing link. We will study the soil properties, the groundwater flow and the nutrient fluxes at the same time in both a natural and a restored marsh along the Scheldt estuary in Belgium. We will use these results to develop a computer model. With this model, we will determine the optimal soil properties of restored marshes in order to optimize their effect on water quality improvement. In cooperation with the water engineering sector, we will translate the optimum to viable design criteria that will ameliorate the water quality improving function of future restored tidal marshes.

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Research team(s)

Can the role of macrophytes on downstream C-N-P-Si fluxes in river basins be neglected? An integrated measurement, experimental and model approach quantifying direct and indirect vegetation effects. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

It is known that water plants interact with flow and can therefore significantly influence hydrological and biogeochemical processes. Numerical models are mathematical tools to integrate large amount of data to understand complex processes in river ecosystems. Yet very few of the existing models are capable of implementing aquatic vegetation and their role is mostly neglected. The current project, called FLASHMOB (FLuxes Affected by Stream Hydrophytes: Modelling Of Biogeochemistry), proposes a unique combination of a Belgian-Austrian team to combine expertise in numerical modelling with fieldwork and lab experiments. We hypothesize that the interaction between plants (in-stream vegetation) and water flow (hydrodynamic conditions) is key in determining production, downstream transport/retention and transformation of organic matter and associated nutrients. An existing model (DELWAQ) was adapted to floodplain sections of the Danube River and forms the ideal basis for integrating the role of water plants in river systems. Organic matter dynamics and aquatic primary production in the current model are coupled to dynamic surface exchange conditions. The first step is to implement the role of in-stream vegetation in a more explicit way including feedback processes through a stepwise and iterative work plan calculating the specific effects of each aspect of plant-flow interaction separately. Finally, all steps are combined and the total net effect of in-stream vegetation on water quality and –quantity of larger river sections (sub basin scale) can be quantified and used for predictions of future development of river ecosystems.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study of the sedimentation and channel formation in a newly created tidal area. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

The project aims to study the geomorphological dynamics of the controlled reduced tidal area Bergenmeersen located along the Scheldt river. This area forms together with other areas along the Scheldt part of the Sigmaplan, created by the Flemish Government as a reaction on the floods of 1976. These project areas are water buffers that can accommodate Scheldt water in the event of a storm surge. Due to the combination of these flood control areas with the creation of a controlled reduced tide inside these areas, they play also an important role in restoring the natural habitat in Flanders. The geomorphology of the CRT Bergenmeersen will be measured with a real time kinematic global navigation satellite system. The height measurement of the mudflats and channel beds shall be done with a precise digital level system. This combined method will give a position accuracy of approximately 2 cm with a height accuracy of 1 mm. These data will be processed in specialised software which will result in a three dimensional map of the Bergenmeersen region with his tidal channels. This three dimensional elevation map will be compared with the original topographic measurement before Bergenmeersen was subjected to the tides of the river Scheldt on the 25th of April 2013. By comparing this original elevation model to the new topographic measurements, the amount of sedimentation and erosion of the tidal channels will be established. These results shall be compared with previous measurements done in the pilot project of the Sigmaplan, Lippenbroek. The results of the observations will deliver new information about the formation of tidal channels and the amount and speed of sedimentation and erosion in newly created controlled reduced tidal areas. This information is important in evaluating the success of the development of the natural habitat, also in the other tidal areas that are being created along the River Scheldt within the framework of the Sigmaplan.

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Research team(s)

ecosystem services approach in the context of the development of ecological key factors 01/11/2016 - 01/09/2017

Abstract

The aim of this study is to select ecosystem services related to the water system and its environment. The identification of indicators for ecosystem services based on an inventory of available input and the development of calculation rules for the quantification of ecosystem services. In addition, a calculation tool will be developed with which the indicators of ecosystem services can be calculated by local water managers and infographics to clearly and visually summarize the information.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Global species structure, colonization-extinction dynamics and adaptive radiation of the cosmopolitan diatom clade Pinnularia borealis. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Diatoms, unicellular algae with a siliceous cell wall, are ecologically widespread and highly diverse organisms. Until recently, it was believed that most diatom species are worldwide distributed. However, increasing evidence suggests the opposite to be true for many species. Phylogenetic data revealed that our model species Pinnularia borealis consists of morphologically similar forms, which in fact correspond to different species. With this project we aim to test a series of hypotheses based on an in depth study of this species complex. First, we will develop and characterize a culture collection of Pinnularia borealis strains from various regions using a combination of morphology, genetics and ecophysiology. This will allow us to assess to which extend ecophysiological specialization is correlated with species formation and their global distribution during the evolution of the complex since its inferred origin 30-47 mil. years ago. In addition, the project will use targeted sequencing of environmental samples and phylogeographic analysis to document patterns of local and regional diversity of this complex in ice-free regions in Antarctica and the Arctic representing a range of lake provinces differing in age and degree of geographical isolation. This will allow us to test the relative roles of dispersal constraints and local adaptation for understanding species distributions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

iFLUXProspector: scalable prototype development. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The proof-of-concept project includes the scalable prototyping of the iFLUXProspector, an integrated modular passive flux sampler for environmental research and management, designed for direct installation in the subsoil. The project results from the IOF-SBO project 'IFLUX'. It frames in the valorization of the iFLUX technology as a spin-off business venture, developed by the University of Antwerp and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Towards an integrated assessment of estuarine restoration. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The main aim of this sabbatical leave is to make a synthesis of the enormous amount of data collected over the last 20 years. A detailed analysis of long term trend swill be performed and the complex interactions between hydrodynamics, morphology and ecology will be studied in detail.Then the observed patterns for the Schelde will be compared with other estuaries. It is the overall goal to compile and translate these insights into a broad vision for ecosystem based adaptation and management of estuaries in response to global changes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Technology for Integrated Water Management. 26/09/2016 - 19/12/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The role of functional diversity in ecosystem service provision of unique South African Palmiet Wetlands. 15/07/2016 - 14/07/2017

Abstract

Ecosystems are the critical infrastructure that provides mankind with multiple essential services. A change from one land-use to another (e.g. palmiet wetlands to agriculture) may result in trade-offs, or synergies between different ecosystem services. As land globally becomes an increasingly limited resource, there is greater emphasis being placed on whether ecosystems are being used optimally, in terms of their potential to provide services. Therefore a strong theoretical and empirical understanding of how ecosystems are structured, how they function and how this links to the delivery of ecosystem services is crucial in order to optimize the benefits to mankind. Since plant functional traits have been shown to correlate strongly with ecosystem function, plant functional diversity can be used as an indicator of ecosystem services. Functional groupings of plant species can also be discriminated using hyperspectral remote sensing techniques, allowing the spatial variation in ecosystem services to be understood. In addition to understanding ecosystems, robust measurements of both the stocks and flows of ecosystem services for different land-uses are required for decision makers. Of all ecosystems, wetlands are considered to be one of the richest in terms of services provided, and yet the complexity of wetland ecology has resulted in them being the least studied system. South African wetlands are not well understood and many of these wetlands are in decline. This PhD research will focus on palmiet wetlands in the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa, with the overarching aim of quantifying ecosystem services and using plant functional traits to map spatial patterns in these services. Five ecosystem services will be investigated in this research: water purification, water regulation, soil quality, soil retention and climate regulation.

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Research team(s)

NI De Blankaart: monitoring of the fish pits of Kempynck - abiotic and biotic situation 5 years after completion of the work. 08/03/2016 - 07/03/2017

Abstract

The study aims at capturing the biotic (phytobenthos, zooplankton, phytoplankton and the vegetation) and abiotic (pond morphology and water quality) situation of the fish pits of Kempynck approx. 5 years after the execution of the works (the largest works have been carried out in the autumn of 2009, but a number of important adaptation works were only carried out in 2011). To this end, the contractor will carry out a number of inventories in each of the 7 wells. In addition, these results are compared with the initial situation and it is checked whether the desired developments as a result of the design measures occur and summarized recommendations for further management of the fish pits.

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Research team(s)

Flow field distortion and contaminant exchange kinetics for the iFLUX design concept. 01/03/2016 - 28/02/2017

Abstract

The further development, of the design for the Iflux sampler prototype based on the current Iflux sampler design. The production, assembly and researching and testing of the diffrent aspects, such as : usability, technicity, safety, regulations, quality and so on. Preparation of the I flux manual.

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Research team(s)

Potential for a climate-proof landscape and ecosystem services in the Maarkebeek valley 25/02/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

The aim of this project is to develop and implement a methodology to strengthen area-oriented ecosystem services in the development of a climate-healthy landscape and a robust green-blue approach to the Maarkebeek valley.

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Research team(s)

iFLUX - Integrated pollutant flux measurements in groundwater 01/02/2016 - 31/01/2018

Abstract

An increasing demand from different sectors for the combined determination of multiple parameter mass fluxes led to the development of an integrated flux measuring instrument, the I flux sampler. The I flux technology focuses on the total mass flux determination of multiple parameter types. This project aims to prepare for the launch of Iflux as a spin-off

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Research team(s)

The preparation of an ecosystem oriented framework for the optimization of the water-level in the 'Uitkerkse' polder land. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Water level management in Flemish polder areas is under debate between nature conservation agencies and the agricultural industry. Mostly, current water level management follows an unnatural system with severe drainage during winter and stowing of water during summer. In ECOBE, we aim to broaden the scope of this debate by the quantification and modeling of the delivery of ecosystem services of Flemish polder areas in relation to alternative water level management regimes. This study will thus provide a much needed tool to assess ecosystem services under different water level management practices, allowing for a more extensive view on management by including objective and socially relevant arguments.

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Research team(s)

Wave impact on tidal flats and marshes in the Lower-Seascheldt estuary 01/11/2015 - 31/10/2017

Abstract

This project aims to quantify the impact of waves on sediment bed stability on a tidal flat and marsh area, the so-called Galgenschoor, in the Scheldt estuary, Belgium. This is done based on field measurements of waves, currents, sedimentation-erosion dynamics and data analysis, with particular emphasis on the quantification of the relative impact of natural wind waves and anthropogenic ship waves, and the relationships between wave loading and sedimentation-erosion dynamics.

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Research team(s)

Macrophyte growth in a future world: the effect of Global Change on plant resilience to hydrodynamic forces, on litter quality and on decomposition. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Climate change seems inevitable over the next few decades. The RCP6.0 scenario of the IPCC predicts the atmospheric CO2 concentration to double by 2100, and the associated climatic shifts will affect many ecosystems. However freshwater ecosystems are poorly studied compared to their terrestrial counterparts, and therefore we are uncertain as to how these systems will respond to climate change. On the other hand it is well established that the predicted changes in precipitation – longer droughts and more extreme rainfall events – will affect rivers and wetlands tremendously. Aquatic plants are some of the key primary producers in these rivers, which govern (i) the aquatic food web (plant material consumed by decomposers) and (ii) biogeochemical processing (nutrient and carbon cycling). Enhanced CO2 and increased nutrient concentrations may lead to an increase in the production of these aquatic plants. Yet the more severe flood pulses are likely to affect plant survival, leading to increased plant mortality and therefore an increase in litter in the system. Climate change may also affect aquatic ecosystems by affecting plants nutrient stoichiometry. Both plant quantity and quality are key driving factors for the aquatic decomposers' food web, which would have knock-on effects for the entire food web. We hypothesize that the performance of macro-invertebrates and bacteria may change, which leads to changing decomposition rates and a direct impact on nutrient and carbon cycling.

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Research team(s)

Quantifying and modelling the shoreline protection function of marsh vegetation. 01/10/2015 - 28/02/2019

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Tidal marsh response to sea level rise: interactions between vegetation die-off, flow and sedimentation. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

Tidal marsh ecosystems are threatened by global sea level rise, but have a certain ability to adapt by sedimentation. However, in several tidal marsh areas around the world, the sedimentation rate is slower than the rate of sea level rise, through which the tidal marsh is increasingly flooded, causing stress to the marsh vegetation and eventually resulting in large-scale vegetation die-off. In this project we study the impact of vegetation die-off on the tidal flow and sedimentation patterns in a tidal marsh, which are determinant for the (dis)ability of vegetation recovery. The hypothesis is investigated that a critical tipping point exists, i.e. that there is a critical level of vegetation die-off for which the flow and sedimentation rates are so significantly affected that the conditions for vegetation recovery get worse and worse, leading to a potential runaway feedback to permanent marsh loss. This project quantifies the effects of different spatio-temporal patterns of vegetation die-off on the flow and sedimentation rates in a tidal marsh, through a combination of methods, including remote sensing, hydrodynamic modeling, and field experiments. The project will contribute to new knowledge that can improve predictions of the response of tidal marshes to sea level rise.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Iron-mediated catastrophic shifts in peatlands: positive feedbacks and phytotoxicity. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

In this study, I aim to conduct fundamental research on a set of biogeochemical processes that, after rewetting, inhibit a shift from a drained (previously peat-accumulating) organic soil with net decomposition towards a soil with organic matter accumulation and nutrient retention. The emphasis will be on positive feedback loops on OM decomposition, with experiments to elucidate the effects of water table dynamics, iron chemistry and vegetation assembly.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

iFLUXsampler: prototype development. 01/09/2015 - 31/08/2016

Abstract

The proof-of-concept project includes the prototyping of the iFLUXsampler, an integrated modular passive flux sampler for environmental research and management, designed for use in a groundwater monitoring well. The project results from the IOF-SBO project 'IFLUX'. It frames in the valorization of the iFLUX technology as a spin-off business venture, developed by the University of Antwerp and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Technology for Integrated Water Management. 01/09/2015 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Land Management: Assessment, Research, Knowledge base (LANDMARK). 01/05/2015 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

LANDMARK is a pan-European multi-actor consortium of leading academic and applied research institutes, chambers of agriculture and policy makers that will develop a coherent framework for soil management aimed at sustainable food production across Europe. The LANDMARK proposal builds on the concept that soils are a finite resource that provides a range of ecosystem services known as "soil functions". Functions relating to agriculture include: primary productivity, water regulation & purification, carbon-sequestration & regulation, habitat for biodiversity and nutrient provision & cycling. Trade-offs between these functions may occur: for example, management aimed at maximising primary production may inadvertently affect the 'water purification' or 'habitat' functions. This has led to conflicting management recommendations and policy initiatives. There is now an urgent need to develop a coherent scientific and practical framework for the sustainable management of soils. LANDMARK will uniquely respond to the breadth of this challenge.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Response of the zooplankton community to improving water quality in the Scheldt estuary. 01/04/2015 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

The evolution of the water quality and ecological functioning of the Scheldt estuary are monitored since 1996 in the frame of the OMES project, coordinated by P. Meire, ECOBE, UAntwerp. This monitoring has shown a considerable improvement of water quality, leading to a shift from a hypereutrophic to a eutrophic system (Van Damme et al., 1995; Cox et al., 2009). The stimulated primary production, mostly of diatoms, improved the water oxygen concentration but also leads to silica – limitation. This could favor development of other primary producers, such as green algae and cyanobacteria. The zooplankton community, which is studied by EcoLab in the frame of OMES, has shown clear changes in parallel with water quality improvement. The zone of maximal abundance of calanoid copepods has changed from the brackish water area towards the freshwater area where a decrease in cyclopoids and cladocerans abundance has been observed (Mialet et al., 2010; 2011). The thesis of S. Chambord examines to which physico-chemical factors these changes are related. As zooplankton assures the transfer of primary production to higher trophic levels, grazing experiments are performed to evaluate in how far the 'new' zooplankton community is able to control potential phytoplankton blooms and could play a role in silica regeneration.

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Research team(s)

Hydrology of fen systems 25/02/2015 - 01/07/2017

Abstract

Sustainable recovery of groundwater fed fen vegetation and associated fauna requires waterlogging by restoring water management. That is why there has been a lot money invested in restoration measures in and around degraded fens. The emphasis of these measures was generally reduction of drainage within the nature reserve. An important knowledge gap is the question to what degree water management needs to be restored for the development of fen peat vegetation and the start of peat formation. A common bottleneck is that the water level dynamics in the restored fens are still too large after rewetting for the development of the desired peat-forming vegetation. The bottlenecks behind insufficient recovery of the groundwater level are not yet well known, because research into ground- and surface water flow patterns in rewetted fens has hardly been conducted. More insight into these bottlenecks is necessary in order to find the right control and management measures in the right areas, and in the right order

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Research team(s)

Evaluation of alternative nature conservation strategies under excessive nutrient availability 12/02/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

Voor natuurherstel en -ontwikkeling in Nederland is de omvorming van landbouwgrond naar natuur een grote en moeilijke opgave. Deze omvorming van landbouwgronden is van belang voor behoud en herstel van natuurgebieden en de ontwikkeling van een samenhangend netwerk van natuurgebieden. Door een intensief landbouwverleden is de nutriëntenvoorraad en -beschikbaarheid groot, waardoor het herstel van natuurtypen die gebonden zijn aan een relatief lage nutriëntenbeschikbaarheid een zeer lastige opgave is. In Nederland zijn de afgelopen twee decennia een aantal strategieën regelmatig toegepast: plaggen c.q. ontgronden van de nutriëntenrijke toplaag, uitmijnen van P, verschralen door middel van maaien en afvoeren of begrazen, bevorderen van het vastleggen van P, en het laten zitten van de nutriëntenrijke toplaag en overschakelen op andere, meer productieve doelen. Zowel in Nederland als daarbuiten is onderzoek verricht naar de effectiviteit en de werking van de deze strategieën, maar de resultaten daarvan en de gevolgtrekkingen daaruit lijken elkaar deels tegen te spreken. Zulke ogenschijnlijke tegenstrijdigheden hebben daarnaast geleid tot controverses in het debat over de omvorming van voedselrijke landbouwgronden. Deze gaan over het wel of niet ontgronden, de omgang met bodemfauna, de vraag of met andere strategieën voedselarme natuurtypen kunnen worden gerealiseerd en over hoe de beschikbaarheid van fosfaat het beste kan worden gemeten.

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Research team(s)

Project website

Determining the biological condition of the Flemish polder ditches: quantification of a biological evaluation tool based on pinpoint research 01/02/2015 - 30/11/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development and challenge of an integrated model for the risk assessment of aquatic ecosystems. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

ANPHEYCO-SEINE: Analyse du fonctionnement hydrologique, morphologique, sédimentaire et écologique (en vue d'une recherche de pistes de restauration globale) de l'estuaire de la Seine. 01/01/2015 - 30/06/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Data analysis of relations between ship traffic, wind conditions, waves and erosion in intertidal ecosystems in the Scheldt estuary. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

Data on wave heights in intertidal ecosystems that result from a past measurement campaign along the Scheldt estuary (Rilland, NL) are analysed in order to determine the wave characteristics of anthropogenic ship-induced waves versus natural wind waves. Wave heights are related to ship characteristics, wind speed and direction, and the currents they produce. Current velocities are connected to the observed erosion, in order to determine the effect of anthropogenic ship traffic versus natural water movements on erosion.

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Research team(s)

Preliminary study for the puropse of landfill permit applications Lower Sea Scheldt. 04/12/2014 - 28/02/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research into the effects of fire on the ecological potential of moors. 01/11/2014 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Qualitative and quantitative assessment of regulating ecosystem services. 27/10/2014 - 14/08/2018

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Interactions between sea level rise, vegetation die-off, flow and sedimentation in tidal marshes: an experimental study. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Tidal marsh ecosystems are threatened by global sea level rise, but have a certain ability to adapt by sedimentation. However, in several tidal marsh areas around the world, the sedimentation rate is slower than the rate of sea level rise, through which the tidal marsh is increasingly flooded, causing stress to the marsh vegetation and eventually resulting in large-scale vegetation die-off. In this project we study the impact of vegetation die-off on the tidal flow and sedimentation patterns in a tidal marsh, which are determinant for the (dis)ability of vegetation recovery. The hypothesis is investigated that a critical tipping point exists, i.e. that there is a critical level of vegetation die-off for which the flow and sedimentation rates are so significantly affected that the conditions for vegetation recovery get worse and worse, leading to a potential runaway feedback to permanent marsh loss. This project quantifies the effects of different spatio-temporal patterns of vegetation die-off on the flow and sedimentation rates in a tidal marsh. In this proposal for a BOF/DOCPRO bonus project, this topic is investigated based on field experiments. This is complementary to the original BOF/DOCPRO project (for which the PhD student has obtained an FWO grant), where this topic is investigated by remote sensing and hydrodynamic modeling. The project will contribute to new knowledge that can improve predictions of the response of tidal marshes to sea level rise.

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Research team(s)

High resolution modelling and monitoring of water and energy transfers in wetland ecosystems (HIWET). 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

The HiWet project aims at deriving ecosystem health indicators for freshwater wetland vegetation by producing high resolution evapotranspiration maps estimated from the combination of field observations, remote sensing, hydrological and surface energy balance modeis. HiWET aims at providing a framework for efficient freshwater wetland ecosystem monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem health, using novel techniques to estimate evapotranspiration (ET) and to derive evaporative stress as an indicator for the health state of the wetland vegetation. The project targets consistent ET retrieval across scales, from the local field scale (fine resolution) to the regional catchment scale (coarse resolution) derived from combined use of hydrological models and remote sensed energy balances. In addition the project aims to contribute greatly to an increased understanding of the functioning of freshwater wetland ecosystems.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Global species structure, colonization-extinction dynamics and adaptive radiation of the cosmopolitan diatom clade Pinnularia borealis. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

Diatoms, unicellular algae with a siliceous cell wall, are ecologically widespread and highly diverse organisms. Until recently, it was believed that most diatom species are worldwide distributed. However, increasing evidence suggests the opposite to be true for many species. Phylogenetic data revealed that our model species Pinnularia borealis consists of morphologically similar forms, which in fact correspond to different species. With this project we aim to test a series of hypotheses based on an in depth study of this species complex. First, we will develop and characterize a culture collection of Pinnularia borealis strains from various regions using a combination of morphology, genetics and ecophysiology. This will allow us to assess to which extend ecophysiological specialization is correlated with species formation and their global distribution during the evolution of the complex since its inferred origin 30-47 mil. years ago. In addition, the project will use targeted sequencing of environmental samples and phylogeographic analysis to document patterns of local and regional diversity of this complex in ice-free regions in Antarctica and the Arctic representing a range of lake provinces differing in age and degree of geographical isolation. This will allow us to test the relative roles of dispersal constraints and local adaptation for understanding species distributions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Technology for Integrated Water Management. 22/09/2014 - 18/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Analysis of soil chemistry in the regular vegetation monitoring network of the province of Drenthe. 01/09/2014 - 01/05/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Soil Sampling Vegetation 2014. 26/06/2014 - 15/10/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Province of Drenthe. UA provides Province of Drenthe research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Contribution update assessment methodology for the purpose of water quality and ecological functioning. 05/06/2014 - 15/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Deltares. UA provides Deltares research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Modelling the geomorphic and ecological evolution of the Hedwige- and Prosperpolder after de-embankment 13/05/2014 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Elaboration Abundance Intact Ness Index. 09/05/2014 - 01/05/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Staat der Nederlanden. UA provides Staat der Nederlanden research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Determination of the maximum ecological potential /sound ecological potential for artificial and/or heavily modified Flemish water bodies - partim Eisden coalmine. 01/02/2014 - 30/11/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VMM. UA provides VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Integrated flux measurement for environmental research and management. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The IFLUX research project is based on an intense collaboration between the University of Antwerp and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, and aims to develop and validate an integrated mass flux sampler for environmental research and management, IFLUX. At the same time, the valorization of IFLUX is prepared, as a spin-off with a service character, that aims to offer integrated flux measurements for different types of environmental research and management.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Drafting a triad method for classification of marshes and sediments in salt and brackish environment. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VMM. UA provides VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Mapping and modeling of ecosystem services and their trade-offs. 20/12/2013 - 14/07/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Erasmus Mundus. UA provides Erasmus Mundus research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Environmental assessment and management options for the Abu Nakhla sewage pond. 10/11/2013 - 10/05/2016

Abstract

The goal of this study is to make an evaluation of the current ecological status as well as the maximal ecological potential of the Abu Nakhla sewage pond. The maximal ecological potential of the lagoon is the ecological status that can be achieved given the current and future uses of the systems.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Fundamental scientific assistance in research programs O&M. 01/11/2013 - 31/10/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Identification, quantification and monetary valuation of ecosystem services provided by natural areas of ANB. 15/10/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Tidal marsh response to sea level rise: interactions between vegetation die-off, flow and sedimentation. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

Tidal marsh ecosystems are threatened by global sea level rise, but have a certain ability to adapt by sedimentation. However, in several tidal marsh areas around the world, the sedimentation rate is slower than the rate of sea level rise, through which the tidal marsh is increasingly flooded, causing stress to the marsh vegetation and eventually resulting in large-scale vegetation die-off. In this project we study the impact of vegetation die-off on the tidal flow and sedimentation patterns in a tidal marsh, which are determinant for the (dis)ability of vegetation recovery. The hypothesis is investigated that a critical tipping point exists, i.e. that there is a critical level of vegetation die-off for which the flow and sedimentation rates are so significantly affected that the conditions for vegetation recovery get worse and worse, leading to a potential runaway feedback to permanent marsh loss. This project quantifies the effects of different spatio-temporal patterns of vegetation die-off on the flow and sedimentation rates in a tidal marsh, through a combination of methods, including remote sensing, hydrodynamic modeling, and field experiments. The project will contribute to new knowledge that can improve predictions of the response of tidal marshes to sea level rise.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Quantifying threshold conditions for landward erosion and seaward expansion of tidal marsh shorelines. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

Tidal marshes, which are vegetated wetlands within larger-scale tidal basins, play a critical role in the physical and biological functioning of that tidal basin. The processes that control the landward erosion and seaward expansion of marsh area are, however, hardly understood. Here we aim at quantifying the hydrodynamic and geomorphic threshold conditions that cause: (1) the start of marsh expansion, by vegetation establishment on an initially bare mudflat. (2) the start of marsh erosion, by cliff formation at an initially gently sloping boundary between a marsh and mudflat.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Iron-mediated catastrophic shifts in peatlands: positive feedbacks and phytotoxicity. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

In this study, I aim to conduct fundamental research on a set of biogeochemical processes that, after rewetting, inhibit a shift from a drained (previously peat-accumulating) organic soil with net decomposition towards a soil with organic matter accumulation and nutrient retention. The emphasis will be on positive feedback loops on OM decomposition, with experiments to elucidate the effects of water table dynamics, iron chemistry and vegetation assembly.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

New eyes on the world: signal processing for interpreting biogeochemical time series. 01/09/2013 - 31/08/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Analysis of high frequency Oxygen data from the Wadden Sea and adjacent German Bight. 01/07/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

The aim of our cooperation is to combine the expertise by Antwerp University to analyse 02 time series with the COSYNA observational data by HZG covering both parts of the Wadden Sea and the coastal North Sea to quantify seasonal and regional differences in primary production.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Biodiversity and function of zooplankton: test potential indicator of water quality (BIOFOZI). 01/04/2013 - 31/10/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand La Région Nord-Pas de Calais. UA provides La Région Nord-Pas de Calais research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Determining the maximum ecological potential/good ecological potential for artificial and/or heavily modified Flemish waterbodies - partim Desselse Zandputten. 01/02/2013 - 30/11/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other VMM. UA provides VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Spatial pattern formation of water plants: an integrated ecosystem model for the management of low land rivers. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

Hydro- and morphodynamic models are an indispensable tool for river managers. Existing models only simulate the interactions between physical processes of water flow, sediment transport and geomorphological changes of the river bed. However, in lowland rivers water plants have a significant impact on these processes. They influence the water quality and flow velocity, can increase flooding risks (because of increased resistance to water flow) and change the bathymetry. Therefore it is necessary to include water plants in a river model. In this research the existing hydrodynamic model STRIVE (STReam and River Ecosystem) will be extended to obtain a tool for management and restoration of rivers with aquatic plants. First a vegetation module is added, which describes the spatial and temporal growth of water plants. Next a transport module is implemented, simulating sedimentation in vegetation patches and erosion adjacent to them. Data gathered in the Nete catchment will be used to calibrate both modules; they include information on vegetation growth, hydrodynamics and river morphology. This extended model will be used to optimize the current mowing management of the Zwarte Nete, reducing flooding risk in combination with maximal conservation of aquatic plant cover. This will result in advice on mowing time and pattern. Next the impact of climate change is investigated, in terms of changing discharges. Model scenarios will estimate the effect of modified discharges on floods.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Silicate fertilization, crop production and carbon storage: a new and integrated concept for sustainable management of agricultural ecosystems. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

We hypothesize that Si-fertilization of croplands with easily weathered silicates increases uptake of atmospheric CO2, providing a new ecosystem service to croplands, while at the same time improving cropland yield. To study this hypothesis, we will couple experimental setups to modeling efforts, to shed new light on the by far understudied Si-C interactions in soils.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

ECOPLAN: Planning for Ecosystem Services. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The role of biogenic silica in macrophyte resistance to hydrodynamic stress. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Submitting a report historical evolution siltation in intertidal areas. 01/01/2013 - 01/07/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand WL. UA provides WL research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Chance on influx of contaminated ground and surface water from the sub-area "Steertse Heide" to the vulnerable nature reserve "Grote Meer". 24/12/2012 - 24/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand INBO. UA provides INBO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Interpreting soil chemical analyses of soil samples from various nature reserves in the province of Drenthe. 22/10/2012 - 22/10/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Prov. Drenthe. UA provides Prov. Drenthe research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The soil systems under global change (SOGLO). 01/10/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The objective of our research consortium is the understanding and quantification of the feedbacks between the soil system and sediment, nutrient, water and carbon fluxes in response to anthropogenic forcings over timescales ranging from the decade to the millennium. Before this can be achieved at the global scale, the interaction between the soil components over different temporal and spatial scales should be identified in case study areas with clear and different types of human interventions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

IWT Post-graduate Grant. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effect of grazing on the biological silicon buffer in subarctic ecosystems (Finnmark, Northern Norway). 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

Recently, the biological loop in the terrestrial Si cycle, the "biological Si buffer", has been shown to regulate the terrestrial Si export towards coastal systems. Studies on the functioning of this Si buffer and influences of human activities are currently scarce, incomplete, while scale-effects are unknown. This project will be a pioneer study on the effect of grazing on the functioning of the biological Si buffer in three subarctic bio-Si hotspot ecosystem types. The study will integrate four different scales, ranging from the plant-herbivore scale to the scale of the province Finnmark. Through combination of the most recently developed analysis methods, Si stocks and fluxes will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. Combined analysis on N, P and DOC will integrate the results with the biogeochemical cycles which are relevant in the light of marine primary production and the global climate. The end-result will be an integrated insight in the effect of grazing and land cover on biological Si pools and fluxes of Si in subarctic ecosystems. The results will be coupled in a modelling environment which will allow to predict Si fluxes with changing land cover, grazing intensity and climate. Today, these changes are highly relevant in subarctic regions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Tidal marsh response to sea level rise: interactions between vegetation die-off, flow and sedimentation. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

Tidal marsh ecosystems are threatened by global sea level rise, but have a certain ability to adapt by sedimentation. However, in several tidal marsh areas around the world, the sedimentation rate is slower than the rate of sea level rise, through which the tidal marsh is increasingly flooded, causing stress to the marsh vegetation and eventually resulting in large-scale vegetation die-off. In this project we study the impact of vegetation die-off on the tidal flow and sedimentation patterns in a tidal marsh, which are determinant for the (dis)ability of vegetation recovery. The hypothesis is investigated that a critical tipping point exists, i.e. that there is a critical level of vegetation die-off for which the flow and sedimentation rates are so significantly affected that the conditions for vegetation recovery get worse and worse, leading to a potential runaway feedback to permanent marsh loss. This project quantifies the effects of different spatio-temporal patterns of vegetation die-off on the flow and sedimentation rates in a tidal marsh, through a combination of methods, including remote sensing, hydrodynamic modeling, and field experiments. The project will contribute to new knowledge that can improve predictions of the response of tidal marshes to sea level rise.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Catastrophic shifts mediated by biogeochemical processes: feedback loops in organic soils. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

In this study, I aim to conduct fundamental research on a set of biogeochemical processes that, after rewetting, inhibit a shift from a drained (previously peat-accumulating) organic soil with net decomposition towards a soil with organic matter accumulation and nutrient retention. The emphasis will be on positive feedback loops on OM decomposition, with experiments to elucidate the effects of water table dynamics, iron chemistry and vegetation assembly.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Assessment in the context of the preparation of the IHD reports. 01/10/2012 - 31/10/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of a guidance document for the valuation of ecosystem services in estuaries. 01/09/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.n het project onder de voorwaarden zoals vastgelegd in voorliggend contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Analysis of soil chemistry in the vegetation monitoring network of the province of Drenthe. 15/08/2012 - 01/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Province Drenthe. UA provides the Province Drenthe research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecotope surfaces and intactness index. 02/05/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Vlaams-Nederlandse Scheldecommissie. UA provides the Vlaams-Nederlandse Scheldecommissie research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research on biogeochemistry and experimental measures for restoration of "beekdaltrilvenen". 01/05/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Bosschap. UA provides the Bosschap research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Analysis of the Soil Communities and Related Possibilities for Recovery of Nardetea in Nature Reserve 'De Liereman', in Function of Nature Design. 16/04/2012 - 16/10/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Mapping regulating ecosystem services using remote sensing imagery (ESSENSE). 01/02/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The main objectives of this project are to explore hyperspectral remote sensing data to: (1) detect ecosystem service hots pots; (2) develop spatially explicit indices for ecosystem functioning that can be used to reveal spatial patterns of several regulating services.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Evaluation and update of the manual 'Economische waardering van ecosysteemdiensten' and the online tool 'Natuurwaardeverkenner'. 01/02/2012 - 01/02/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecohydrological study SBZ-H De Maten. 16/01/2012 - 15/01/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Estimates of the benefits provided by the Flemish Natura 2000 network. 03/01/2012 - 02/01/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Interdisciplinary environmental research about sustainability and integrated management. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

An investigation of recently discovered controls on ecosystem soil nutrient stoichiometry in (sub)arctic ecosystems. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

In this project we wish to address essential knowledge gaps in our understanding of the effect of vegetation and diatom abundance on integrated nutrient dynamics of (sub)arctic ecosystems. It is integrated nutrient (C-N-P-Si) dynamics that drive ecosystem productivity of both aquatic and terrestrial (sub)arctic ecosystems.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Relative impact of ship-induced waves versus natural water movements on the disturbance of intertidal ecosystems in the Schelde estuary. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The relative impact of ship-induced waves on the intertidal areas of the Schelde estuary is studied in proportion to the impact of natural wind-waves and tidal currents. These effects are measured in relation to different ship properties and on different locations along the estuary in order to relate them to site-specific characteristics of the intertidal flats. The results can be used as a basis for recommendations in order to reduce the impact of shipping on the ecosystem of the Schelde.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecohydrological analysis of "De Zegge". 01/01/2012 - 31/05/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KMDA. UA provides KMDA research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The impact of nutrient spiraling in the tidal freshwater zone of estuaries: the Scheldt, a case study. 01/01/2012 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

Estuaries are one-dimensional flow systems, transforming particulate and dissolved substances before reaching the coastal zone. However, estuarine substances may be temporarily trapped in intertidal marshes and mudflats, the primary low-flow zones. These processes, referred to as spiraling, allow intense biogeochemical processing with major consequence for the functioning of estuaries as nutrient filters. The tidal freshwater area has received scarce attention compared to the saline counterpart. It is my objective to study the biogeochemical consequences of nutrient spiraling in the freshwater zone of the Scheldt estuary. I hypothesize that in this estuary spiraling by lateral temporary storage in tidal marshes and vertical exchange between flooding water and the intertidal sediment is equally important as the processes in the pelagic. Lateral storage from marshes (1) and vertical sediment-water exchange from mudflats (2) will be examined to scale up an existing Scheldt model (3), allowing to incorporate the effects of nutrient spiraling for the first time from intertidal marshes and mudflats on the pelagic processes in the tidal freshwater zone.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Water quality survey of peats in selected natural areas in the Kempen region. 01/12/2011 - 30/11/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Determination of the maximum ecological potential/good ecological potential for articial and/or heavily modified Flemish water bodies - De Gavers (Harelbeke). 30/11/2011 - 29/11/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VMM. UA provides VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Soil Sampling in the province of Drenthe. 17/10/2011 - 17/10/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Province of Drenthe. UA provides Province of Drenthe research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Quantifying threshold conditions for landward erosion and seaward expansion of tidal marsh shorelines. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

Tidal marshes, which are vegetated wetlands within larger-scale tidal basins, play a critical role in the physical and biological functioning of that tidal basin. The processes that control the landward erosion and seaward expansion of marsh area are, however, hardly understood. Here we aim at quantifying the hydrodynamic and geomorphic threshold conditions that cause: (1) the start of marsh expansion, by vegetation establishment on an initially bare mudflat. (2) the start of marsh erosion, by cliff formation at an initially gently sloping boundary between a marsh and mudflat.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Nl Latemse Meersen - Monitoring Keuzemeersen (T=2) and Meersbeek (T=-1). 16/09/2011 - 15/09/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

KPP Westerschelde Evaluation Methodology: Phase 2 commissioning work - evaluation methodology Scheldt estuary. 18/08/2011 - 15/12/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand a private institution. UA provides the private institution research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Monitoring of adult Culicoides along the Zeeschelde at sites where works are scheduled in 2011 by W and Z, as well as of Culicoides larva samples along the entire salinity gradient of the Scheldt (CULIMON II). 01/05/2011 - 15/03/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KBIN. UA provides KBIN research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study the feasibility of phytoremediation linked to prevent resuspension of sediment contaminated with heavy metals. 29/04/2011 - 28/04/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand OVAM. UA provides OVAM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Africa at a meso-scale: Adaptive and integrated tools and strategies for natural resources management (AFROMAISON). 01/03/2011 - 31/05/2014

Abstract

The main outputs of AFROMAISON are a toolbox, short-term to long-term strategies, quick wins (much gains with little effort) and operational strategies for adaptation to global change. In order to enhance the potential impact, we will put strong efforts in integrated capacity building and a solid dissemination strategy. In order to do so, we will integrate tools, frameworks, strategies and processes for landscape functioning, livelihood & socio-economic development (incl. vulnerability to global change), local knowledge, institutional strenghtening and improved interaction between sectors, scales and communities. For the development of concrete operational strategies for adaptation to global change, AFROMAISON will focus on the three groups of tools: strategies for restoration and adaptation (including sustainable landscape intensification), economic tools and incentives for INRM and tools for spatial planning.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Functioning of river ecosystems through plant-flow-soil interactions. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Functioning of river ecosystems through plant-flow-soil interactions. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effect of land reclamation or loss and high water levels in the Scheldt estuary: historical effects (1550-1800) as a reference for current management. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

To reduce the risk of flooding along the Schelde estuary, polders are restored to tidal marshes. However there's no empirical data available that describes the relationship between tidal marsh restoration and water level reduction (~ flooding). Therefore, as comparative model, we will study the effects of historical land loss and reclamation along the Westerschelde (1550-1800) (near sea) on the water level of the Zeeschelde (inland), using protists (Diatoms and Testate amoebae).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Green infrastructure implementation and efficiency. 22/12/2010 - 21/12/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand a private institution. UA provides the private institution research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of mowing management on the development of ecosystems of small sedges in valleys of brooks and streams. 14/10/2010 - 01/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KWR. UA provides KWR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Impact of land use on silica fluxes: an ecosystem signature study. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

It is well known that anthropogenic land use changes have strongly impacted biogeochemical cycling and export of carbon, nitrogen and weathering products. However, poor knowledge of the biological component in silica (Si) biogeochemistry challenges our ability to predict the effects of land use changes on the silica cycle. Stable isotope techniques and trace element/Si ratios will be used to establish "ecosystem Si signatures" for forest, grassland and cropland ecosystems in Flanders. These signatures will be traced back throughout the aquatic system. Upstream terrestrial signatures will be coupled with Si transport in the downstream river basins by an integrated modeling approach. In a final step, silica cycling will be linked with other biogeochemical cycles (C, N and P). More specifically, the relation between dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and Si is studied in detail, as both elements originate from biogenic matter in soils and might follow similar pathways. This research will assess the effects and interactions of different types of land use on silica fluxes, thereby enlarging our general knowledge about biogeochemical silica cycling. Isotope signature methods are applied for the first time at this spatial scale level.

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Research team(s)

Effect of grazing on the biological silicon buffer in subarctic ecosystems (Finnmark, Northern Norway). 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

Recently, the biological loop in the terrestrial Si cycle, the "biological Si buffer", has been shown to regulate the terrestrial Si export towards coastal systems. Studies on the functioning of this Si buffer and influences of human activities are currently scarce, incomplete, while scale-effects are unknown. This project will be a pioneer study on the effect of grazing on the functioning of the biological Si buffer in three subarctic bio-Si hotspot ecosystem types. The study will integrate four different scales, ranging from the plant-herbivore scale to the scale of the province Finnmark. Through combination of the most recently developed analysis methods, Si stocks and fluxes will be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. Combined analysis on N, P and DOC will integrate the results with the biogeochemical cycles which are relevant in the light of marine primary production and the global climate. The end-result will be an integrated insight in the effect of grazing and land cover on biological Si pools and fluxes of Si in subarctic ecosystems. The results will be coupled in a modelling environment which will allow to predict Si fluxes with changing land cover, grazing intensity and climate. Today, these changes are highly relevant in subarctic regions.

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Quantifying threshold conditions for landward erosion and seaward expansion of tidal marsh shorelines. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

Tidal marshes, which are vegetated wetlands within larger-scale tidal basins, play a critical role in the physical and biological functioning of that tidal basin. The processes that control the landward erosion and seaward expansion of marsh area are, however, hardly understood. Here we aim at quantifying the hydrodynamic and geomorphic threshold conditions that cause: (1) the start of marsh expansion, by vegetation establishment on an initially bare mudflat. (2) the start of marsh erosion, by cliff formation at an initially gently sloping boundary between a marsh and mudflat.

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Elaboration of a study on ecosystem services of the Zwin region under the REECZ. 01/09/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Provincie West-Vlaanderen. UA provides Provincie West-Vlaanderen research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Climate change impacts on coastal wetlands. 31/08/2010 - 28/02/2011

Abstract

Coastal wetlands, such as salt marshes and mangroves, are valuable ecosystems that are vulnerable to climate change. Sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity may lead to increased flooding of coastal wetlands, and finally may cause the die-back and erosion of salt marshes or mangroves. In this project we want to study the adaptability of coastal wetlands to increasing sea level and storminess. The dense vegetation of salt marshes or mangroves is able to reduce hydrodynamic forces (tidal currents and waves) and to promote the deposition of sediments. In some places in the world this sediment accretion is enough to overcome the increased flooding by sea level rise and storms, but in other places coastal wetlands are increasingly flooded and finally disappear. In this project we want to identify the critical thresholds that determine the survival or disappearance of coastal wetlands in response to increasing sea level and storminess. These thresholds involve both biotic variables (like vegetation characteristics) and geophysical variables (like suspended sediment availability, tidal range, etc.). The study will be based on a combination of field work (preferably in the Schelde estuary, Belgium, Netherlands), remote sensing, and hydrodynamic modelling.

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Research team(s)

Climate change impacts on coastal wetlands. 30/08/2010 - 29/06/2013

Abstract

Coastal wetlands, such as salt marshes and mangroves, are valuable ecosystems that are vulnerable to climate change. Sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity may lead to increased flooding of coastal wetlands, and finally may cause the die-back and erosion of salt marshes or mangroves. In this project we want to study the adaptability of coastal wetlands to increasing sea level and storminess. The dense vegetation of salt marshes or mangroves is able to reduce hydrodynamic forces (tidal currents and waves) and to promote the deposition of sediments. In some places in the world this sediment accretion is enough to overcome the increased flooding by sea level rise and storms, but in other places coastal wetlands are increasingly flooded and finally disappear. In this project we want to identify the critical thresholds that determine the survival or disappearance of coastal wetlands in response to increasing sea level and storminess. These thresholds involve both biotic variables (like vegetation characteristics) and geophysical variables (like suspended sediment availability, tidal range, etc.). The study is based on a combination of field work (preferably in the Schelde estuary, Belgium, Netherlands), remote sensing, and hydrodynamic modelling.

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Assessing and forecasting the impact of environmental key stressors on freshwater ecosystem functions and biodiversity. 03/08/2010 - 02/06/2013

Abstract

This project aims at identifying the major stressors of the ecosystem functions and biodiversity on a river basin scale in China and to develop monitoring strategies to follow up the state of the functioning and the biodiversity

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Soil Sampling in the province of Drenthe. 15/07/2010 - 15/10/2010

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Province of Drenthe. UA provides Province of Drenthe research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Reactivity of biogenic Si in terrestrial ecosystems: a crucial missing concept in our knowledge of aquatic-terrestrial links in the silica cycle and the coupled C-sinks. 01/07/2010 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project aims to quantify the reactivity of the bio-Si buffer in diverse ecosystems and at different temporal and spatial scale levels. An innovative extraction procedure will be developed and detailed dissolution experiments will be carried out. This innovating concept will allow us to address a crucial missing link in our knowledge of aquatic-terrestrial coupling in the biogeochemical silica cycle and the coupled carbon sinks.

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Project website

Development of an evaluation methodology for the monitoring system Scheldt estuary. 01/03/2010 - 01/09/2010

Abstract

In the "Ontwikkelingsschets 2010 Schelde-estuarium" (OS2010) of March 11 2005, the Dutch and Flemish governments decided the elaboration of a large number of big projects. For the projects regarding safety against flooding, accessibility (of harbours) and nature specific agreements were made for monitoring. In the frame of the treaty "Common Policy and Management" it was decided to create one common monitoring program. In this study an evaluation methodology will be developed for the common monitoring program. Definition of evaluation methodology: how can the data of the Dutch ¿ Flemish system monitoring of the Schelde estuary lead to results that give answers to or contribute to questions of policy, management and stakeholders of the estuary. The evaluation methodology will consist of a combination of models, other methodologies such as statistics and of expert judgement. Given the complexity of the study, the need for a clear and sound progress of the process and based upon the experience of the MOVE project, it was decided to develop now an evaluation tool for the future monitoring program. This methodology has to be supported by both Flanders and the Netherlands. The monitoring program of October 10 2008 will be the basis of the evaluation tool. Every 6 year an evaluation of the functioning of the entire Schelde ecosystem will be made, using this tool.

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Research of the ecological potential of grasslands in the region of Antwerp. 01/02/2010 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The Agency for Nature and Forest of the Flemish Government manages several areas with extensive grassland surfaces in the Antwerp Campines. To optimise the management and plan restoration works it is necessary to study the potentials of these grasslands. The objective of this study is to figure out the maximum potentials based on the current biotic qualities, the main abiotic parameters and specific local settings (e.g. management objectives). Secondly measures to reach these objectives will be defined. An essential part of the study will be the current constraints and possible solutions.

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Research team(s)

Linking optical imaging techniques and 2D-modelling for stuyding spatial heterogenity in vegetated streams and rivers. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The major aim of this project is to develop and apply new 'surface covering' optical measuring techniques with a high spatial and temporal resolution to characterise plant-flow interactions in river ecosystems. This new type of information will be used for the 2D numerical model development within the STRIVE-package. Two individual research fields are defined, based on the scientific sub-discipline and consequent character of measurements.

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Research team(s)

Tidal River Development (TIDE). 01/01/2010 - 31/03/2013

Abstract

TIDE considers tidally influenced NSR estuaries with large sediment transportation, which are used as shipping channels to large harbours. All of them face the same type of increasing problems for which they need to find win-win-win solutions addressing economic, ecological and social needs. TIDE will lead the path towards a more sustainable and effective use of large scale investments made into mitigation and compensation measures in NSR estuaries by applying for the first time a unified ecosystem approach to guide the process of integrated participatory management planning.

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Hot-spots in biological transformation of silica (Hobits). 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The overall objective of the proposed research is to increase our understanding of the biological Si processing in tropical river systems. We will investigate bio-Si cycling in large tropical wetlands. We will conduct studies in two tropical systems, which can be considered hot-spots for biological Si cycling: the Okavango Delta (Botswana) and the Fly River (Papua New Guinea). Research fits in the growing recognition that biota control the global silica cycle, which has tight connections to ocean and terrestrial carbon sinks.

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Research team(s)

Species performance in peat-accumulating ecosystems under changing conditions. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project addresses the impact of changed hydrochemical conditions on plant-plant interactions in peat producing ecosystems. We will compare the response of typical species on different hydrolochemical constraints to those of general wetland species. Three possible bottle-necks will be investigated: germination, seedling establishment and competiton between adult plants.

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Pilot study recovery peat formation. 21/12/2009 - 01/09/2010

Abstract

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Research team(s)

ECOFRESH - Ecosystem services of Freshwater systems. 15/12/2009 - 31/01/2012

Abstract

The aim of this project is to develop an adequate scientific basis to contribute to a policy-relevant strategy for ecosystem services in Belgium as part of the overall policy of sustainable development, focussing on fresh water ecosystems (FWE). They include lakes and ponds, rivers and streams as well as different wetlands types.

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Research team(s)

BEES - Belgium ecosystem services: a new vision for society-nature interactions (BEES). 15/12/2009 - 31/01/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of maintenance on watercourses on regrowth, biomass and potential adjustment to more efficient and cheaper methods. 04/12/2009 - 31/10/2010

Abstract

Increased macrophyte growth, due to increased water quality, has resulted in higher water levels. To prevent water damage, rivers are frequently cleaned with and increased cost for water managers. Due to the negative impact of vegetation removals on the ecological value of rivers in the Nete Catchment this management tool has to be handle with caution. In addition vegetation removal techniques will favour fast growing macrophyte species resulting in even more vegetation removals to lower water levels. More information on the impact of vegetation removals is necessary to create a sustainable management technique. In this research project some practical problems associated with vegetation removal are investigated: -the effect of vegetation removal on total biomass and species diversity of macrophytes. -How does timing interact with the macrophyte species composition. -The effect of macrophyte removal on invertebrate and fish stocks -Re-growth of macrophytes after removal -The impact of removed macrophyte volume on the water levels.

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Research team(s)

Interactions between hydrodynamics, geomorphology and ecology in the Schelde estuary 01/12/2009 - 30/11/2013

Abstract

This research project addresses the morphological management of the Schelde estuary, with a focus on the interactions between human interventions, hydrodynamics, geomorphology and ecology. The project aims at quantifying the processes that are responsible for the lateral erosion and accretion of tidal marsh shorelines, with special emphasis on: 1) the relative impact of human factors (ship waves) and natural factors (wind waves etc.) on the erosion and accretion of marsh shorelines. 2) the potential role of vegetation as a sustainable and cost-effective protection against shoreline erosion.

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Research team(s)

Impact of sediment pollution on the ecological situation in the Antwerp docks. 01/12/2009 - 30/11/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf Antwerpen. UA provides Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf Antwerpen research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Estuarine morphological management for optimizing flood defence, port accessibility, and ecology 01/12/2009 - 30/11/2013

Abstract

This project investigates the possibilities of morphological management of the Schelde estuary (trough strategic dredging and dumping of sediment) in order to optimize the three main functions of the estuary: 1) The estuary should provide protection against flooding of the densely populated area bordering the estuary. The morphological modifications should lead to attenuation of the landward propagation of tidal waves, storm surges, and sea level rise, and hence should contribute to protection against flooding. 2) The estuary should provide access for sea ships to the port of Antwerp. The morphological modifications should result in concentration of tidal currents towards the shipping channels in order to maximize the self-eroding capacity of the channels. 3) The estuary hosts European protected ecosystems. The morphological modifications should guarantee the variation of estuarine habitats. This is studied by coupling of hydrodynamic, morphodynamic and ecological modelling.

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Research team(s)

Ecoplan 01/12/2009 - 30/11/2010

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Monitoring for an experiment with no mowing parts of the swamp in Drenthe AA. 01/12/2009 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Research on different kind of fish in Kleine Hoofdgracht in Balen. 16/10/2009 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: de Deckere Eric

Research team(s)

Research into the effects of the Sigma plan, dredging and port expansion in the Scheldt on the environment. 12/10/2009 - 11/01/2011

Abstract

The Schelde is an estuary with many functions: apart from its important ecological function (e.g., as breeding and foraging area for fish, shellfish, birds, etc), the Schelde is an important shipping route (e.g., to the harbour of Antwerp) and densely populated areas along the Schelde need to be protected against storm floods (e.g., inundations 1953, 1976, etc). Sustainable management of the Schelde estuary is only possible when these functions are well balanced. In this project we study the effects of human interventions, such as the construction of controlled inundation areas, dredging and harbour extension, on the natural environment of the Zeeschelde (=Flemish part of Schelde estuary).The current project investigates the sedimentation/erosion processes in a recently constructed inundation area (Lippenbroek, Hamme, Belgium).

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Research team(s)

Integrating the biological Si buffer into biogeochemical models. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

This project will contribute essential knowledge to our scientific concept of the bio-Si buffer, and attain an integration of this buffer into biogeochemical models of the silica cycle. This requires a detailed quantification of the reactivity of the bio-Si buffer in different ecosystems and at different timescales, as well as an integration of processes at different temporal and spatial scales.

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Research team(s)

Biogeochemical cycle of heavy metals in natutal freshwater tidal marshes and in flood control areas. 01/10/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

As a transition zone between land and sea, estuaries accommodate specific and valuable ecosystems and often act as a filter for the load of nutrients and pollutants increased by human activities. Intertidal areas play a key role in these functions. The area of natural tidal wetlands can be extended by bringing the planned controlled flooding areas under influence of the tide. Within the pilot project of the controlled inundation area with controlled reduced tide (CRT) Lippenbroek and mesocosm experiment in Kruibeke it is the aim to have a clear view on the effect of the present metal contamination of the areas fringing the river Scheldt. The main interest will be metal bioavailability and the interaction with biota. We will investigate the total metal cycle in plants from uptake to decomposition. The biogeochemical cycle of metals will be compared between the CRT, embarked areas and natural tidal marshes.

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Research team(s)

Macrophyte patches as biogeochemical hotspots: impact on river water quality? 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

Macrophyte patches as biogeochemical hotspots: impact on river water quality? 1. Problem Macrophytes play an important role in the structural biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems. Being primary producers, they are a matter of life and death for many organisms. Even on a ecosystem level, they take a central role, but the processes here involved are not yet well known. Though, a good knowledge is crucial to be able to take correct management decisions concerning the improvement of our fresh water ecosystems. On top of this, the presence of macrophytes has an even greater influence on the hydraulics. Macrophytes act as ecological engineers and have therefore a direct influence on stream velocity patterns and on sedimentation and erosion patterns. Changes in these patterns have immediate consequences on biodiversity and geomorphology. 2. Objectives I want to test the main concept of macrophytes being biogeochemical hotspots. After all, there are strong indications that the processes in the sediments underneath macrophyte patches can have greater impact on the water quality than the typically studied pelagic processes. To test this hypothesis, three questions are postulated: 1) Are macrophyte patches biogeochemical hotspots and at what quantity? 2) Which is the maximal length and width a patch can have under certain circumstances? 3) What is theoretically the maximal surface patches can have in a river stretch, given certain circumstances (and what is the total effect of these patches on the water quality, regarding question 1)? 3. Methodology Question 1) will be answered by gathering field data. The organic material from selected patches will be characterized and processes such as denitrification and silica transformation are followed up. All these data will be merged with patterns of stream velocity and sedimentation and erosion in and around the patches. Afterwards, results are analyzed with a diagenetic model and statistically tested. Question 2) will be answered by placing in situ flumes around patches in rivers. In these flumes, the patch growth limiting factors such as stream velocity and erosion-sedimentation will be quantified. Additionally, a great number of patches throughout the country will be measured to verify field flume data. Question 3) will be answered with the Delft-3D model. Data from question 1) will calibrate the model, data from question 2) will validate the model. With this model, I want to estimate the impact of macrophyte patches on the water quality of larger parts of rivers (e.g. 100-1000 m).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Impact of macrophytes on bio-availability of metals present in riversediments. 01/10/2009 - 31/05/2010

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: de Deckere Eric
  • Co-promotor: Meire Patrick
  • Fellow: Van den Bergh Kenneth

Research team(s)

Layout of a vegetation map for the project area Ruggeveld - Boterlaar - Silsburg. 03/09/2009 - 27/11/2009

Abstract

The city of Antwerp has the ambition to turn its eastern outskirt, Rugeveld-Boterlaar-Silsburg, into a landscape park. This park will be part of the green finger of the Schijn valley that enters the urbanised area of Antwerp. Because of the presence of important nature values and the major aim of nature development, this research project was set up to produce a vegetation and landscape map of the area. The main aim is to map the vegetation and landscape and produce a set of directives for planning and management. The conclusions of this study must be directly applicable in the development plans of the area. The Ecosystem Management Research Group is proceeding with extensive field work, combined with the wide local knowledge, to localise all the ecological valuable sites and describe the available opportunities. For the different ecotopes points of interest are described to help to reach an optimal symbiosis between the ecological values and the established development plan.

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Pilot Study for the best method to determine the phosphate content in the upper soil layers in the water planning Eelder and Peizermaden. 15/06/2009 - 01/10/2010

Abstract

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Comparison three vegetation surveys in De Wieden. 01/02/2009 - 31/01/2010

Abstract

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Tracking the biological control on Si mobilisation in upland ecosystems. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

It is well known that anthropogenic land use changes have strongly influenced the occurrence of biota and soil formation over the last millennia. Land use changes can have a strong effect on the export of carbon, nitrogen and weathering products. The poor knowledge of the biological component in silica biogeochemistry challenges our ability to predict the effects of these land use changes on the silica cycle. Current models for silica export to the ocean still consider it constant. This assumption is now recognized to be invalid, yet our knowledge base is too small to correctly assess human induced variation in diatom productivity and burial rate. This project aims to contribute to filling this fundamental knowledge gap. We want to advance knowledge on how the silica cycle is affected by human activity in a temperate river basin through a detailed, integrated analysis of silica pools, pathways, fluxes and transformations, thereby using advanced analysis techniques. In this context, the Scheldt basin is extra interesting, as it has high DSi concentrations compared to other systems worldwide, and this is potentially related to high human influence.

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Research team(s)

Climate change and changes in Spatial structures in Flanders (CcASPAR). 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

Abstraction of the success of mitigating short term measures, climate change will anyhow influence the way in which Flemish society organises its use of land and space. Instead of closing our eyes, it is time to develop strategies to anticipate to possible effects of climate change, or ¿ put in other words ¿ to assess new investments in spatial development and to investigate how to make them climate proof so they can withstand the effects of climate change. Therefore, key words of the research project are: 'climate change', 'spatial structures', 'changes in spatial structures' and 'Flanders'. The scientific objectives of the research project can be defined as - a qualitative exploration through research by design of possible planning concepts for a more adaptive approach of changes in spatial structures as a result of climate change; - a scientific evaluation and appreciation of existing planning policy instruments and public governance mechanisms in relation to the implementation of spatial adaptation strategies in relation to climate change. In the project design, six major work packages are defined besides the co-ordination of the research project. 1. In the first place, work package 1 will assess the spatial impact of climate change in Flanders for different climate change scenarios. It will geographically differentiate the primary effects (with a focus on the water system) and the secondary effects on different land uses in 2050 and 2100. Next, a spatial adaptation strategy at the macro scale of Flanders will be set out, first in general, later on more in detail with information from the other work packages, in particular from work package 6 that focuses on the meso and micro scale. 2. 2-4. Work packages 2, 3 and 4 will assess, at the same macro scale of Flanders, the geographically differentiated impact of the climate change effects on different spatial (sub)structures: the spatial-natural structure, the landscape structure and the spatial structures of human activities. The common way of thinking in these work packages is first to define a relevant typology of elements of these spatial structures in relation to climate change, next to assess/analyse the sensitivity of these elements for climate change, and finally to develop adaptation strategies mitigating the effects of climate change on these spatial structures. 5. The findings of the first four work packages are gathered in two integrated planning cases in work package 5, one for the coastal zone in Flanders and one for the more land inward region of the Kempen. Through research by design, coherent complexes of spatial planning concepts for the adaptation of spatial structures at meso (regional) and micro (local) level will be defined to tackle the effects of climate change in a sustainable way. The objective at micro level is to design planning concepts for the spatial development of harbours, residential and industrial zones. 6. Finally, work package 6 formulates policy recommendations on spatial adaptation strategies in relation to climate change, in particular at the meso (regional/provincial) and the micro (local) level. The existing institutional context as well as existing spatial adaptation strategies abroad will be analysed. This analysis, together with the findings of the five other work packages, will result in recommendations concerning policy instruments and governance techniques.

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Research team(s)

Macrophytes and nutrient dynamics: process and field studies in the upper reaches of river basins - Manudyn II. (second phase) 01/01/2009 - 31/01/2011

Abstract

The general objective of this project is to develop a numerical tool allowing the quantitative description of the growth and decay of macrophytes, and of their interactions with nutrients from the water column and the sediments. For this purpose we will study in detail the growth, decay, and nutrient uptake, release and allocation processes of macrophytes in response to their various physical, chemical and biological controlling factors. These include light intensity, temperature, water quality, sediment quality, stream velocities and macrophyte or macro-algae species composition. Experiments will be performed at various spatial and temporal scales in order to develop integrated models describing the kinetics of growth and decomposition of river rnacrophytes. Once integrated into stream ecosystem models, this might serve as an efficient tool to explore various scenarios of macrophyte biomass controls. For example the effects of biomass removal (mowing) on instream nutrient retention can be evaluated, with the possible consequences for the downstream (estuary, coastal zone) ecosystems.

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Research team(s)

Land Use Changes and Si Transport through the Scheldt River Basin. (LUSi - second phase) 01/01/2009 - 31/01/2011

Abstract

This project aims to answer the question if Si fluxes through a river basin, and ultimately towards the sea, can change because of land use changes. These changes will be budgeted for the Scheldt basin, taking into account surface runoff, subsurface drainage and storage and cycling through vegetation. The results will be used to evaluate the effect of land use changes over historical times on Si fluxes. Moreover, it is the aim to formulate recommendations towards land planning with respect to the reduction of eutrophication, working from the viewpoint of Si in the nutrient ratios. As such, this study of Si can provide a mirror image for the N and P side of the eutrophication problem, and provide invaluable, new insights in our evolving concept of eutrophication.

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Research team(s)

Effect of land reclamation or loss and high water levels in the Scheldt estuary: historical effects (1550-1800) as a reference for current management. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

To reduce the risk of flooding along the Schelde estuary, polders are restored to tidal marshes. However there's no empirical data available that describes the relationship between tidal marsh restoration and water level reduction (~ flooding). Therefore, as comparative model, we will study the effects of historical land loss and reclamation along the Westerschelde (1550-1800) (near sea) on the water level of the Zeeschelde (inland), using protists (Diatoms and Testate amoebae)

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Research team(s)

Implementation of a literature study on plant growth and modeling of surface water and sediment transport in and around the area "Bankei 'to Balen. 18/11/2008 - 17/11/2009

Abstract

The project team consists of members of the Ecosystem Research Group (ECOBE) and the hydraulic laboratory of the University of Gent. Both research groups have a common history in hydraulic modelling of water ways. In this small research project the influence of vegetation on sedimentation and erosion in the Bankei region in Balen. In the first part of this study the available literature on sedimentation within aquatic vegetation will be done by ECOBE. The modelling and the scenario run for this specific area will be performed by the University of Gent.

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Research team(s)

Integration of ecology, sociology and economics in water policy by means of a policy support system. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

The integrated water policy has need to policy support systems. A Metamodel will be developed that the development of policy scenarios is on the basis of eco-physical, social and economic date supports with special attention to ecosystem services. Economic valuation and the input of a Multi-stakeholder platform of future users are of vital importance in this process.

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Research team(s)

Effect of nutrient limitation (phosphorus limitation) on the floristic diversity in an undisturbed wetland. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

Several factors determine the realized species pool in a wet meadow system. Hydrology partly influences the plant-available nutrients, directly by controlling the supply through ground and flooding water,¿ and indirectly by the groundwater level, controlling the soil moisture content and thus the redox potentiaal which determines the available nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) forms. The amount of available nutrients is also determined by the management type. Mowing, with subsequent removal of the harvested biomass, results in nutrient removal while fertilization causes an increase in nutrient availability. The plant strategy determines how plants deal with the quantity of available nutrients. Several grass and sedge species for example own the possibility to form tussocks, a growth form which allows them to store a vast amount of nutrients. High biomass production often results in strong competition for light, outcompeting certain species. Several plant strategies and plant traits such as the above mentioned tussock strategy allow species to deal with the competition for light and nutrients imposed by surrounding species.The realized species pool gets determined on the one hand by the potential species pool, in other words the total number of species that would be present in absence of stress, competition or disturbance and on the other by abiotic factors such as anoxia and by biotic interactions such as competition. These processes will influence the various life stages (seed, seedling, adult plant) of a plant differently.

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Appointing a liaison officer for the domain environment and integrated water management. 01/09/2008 - 01/06/2010

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Water and Climate Change. 15/08/2008 - 14/08/2009

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Studies about ecosystems in Flanders. 07/08/2008 - 06/08/2009

Abstract

"Ecosystem services" are the services, gains people obtain from nature. For Flanders this is a quite new concept, nevertheless it has huge potentials for nature conservation. Nature conservation is still too much approached as something with relative low social importance. Describing and evaluating Ecosystem services is a good starting point for sustainable development. To introduce this concept in Flanders there is an urgent need for more knowledge about Ecosystem services and which are their possibilities. This project aims to be a starting point for a ecosystem service based approach. The study consists of two parts: The first part wants to give an overview of the current status of ecosystem services and their future possibilities. We will give a global introduction as well as a spatial overview (maps). In the second part we want to show the possibilities of the ecosystem service concept in some (5) concrete projects.

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The impact of climate change on river hydrology and ecology: case study for interdisciplinary research. (SUDEM CLI) 01/04/2008 - 30/11/2010

Abstract

The aim of this research is bringing together key experts from the climatological, hydrological and ecological research communities, as well as water managers and policy makers, in order to improve the decision making regarding the impact of climate change on aquatic and floodplain ecosystems. The first aim is to discuss relevant research issues in an open, interdisciplinary team. The focus on a case study "Nete" will allow us to adapt these relevant issues, while focusing on the combined information from climate projections, changes in flow regimes, associates water quality and ecology/biodiversity, with the final aim to allow far better projections of habitat quality and diversity.

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Economic study of nature and landscape of cost-benefit analyses of projects in the Seaports. 20/02/2008 - 31/08/2009

Abstract

Gelieve aan te vullen a.u.b.

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Durable living and building as a lever for education for durable development. Audit of actors, offer, support and recommendations for policy. Target group: (potential) builders and renovators. 01/02/2008 - 30/08/2008

Abstract

The aim of this study is to inventarise all types of education in Flanders concerning 'Sustainable housing and buidling' for people interested in building and renovation. The inventory includes stakeholders, courses, objectives, initiatives, projects and material. Based on this and on an evaluation of all courses to a reference, recommendations are developed to enhance sustainable education for 'housing and building'.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: de Deckere Eric

Research team(s)

Project website

Coupling of a new in-situ measurement technique with a new modeling approach for the determination of the effective settling velocity of flocculating sediments in estuaries. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

(1) To develop a new and reliable system for the in-situ real-time measurement of particle movement along with simultaneous measurement of turbulence and size and shape of settling particles. This will overcome the aforementioned shortcomings of the currently applied techniques. (2) To use this new measurement system to investigate in-situ particle settling velocity and particle-turbulence interaction on mesoscale in the laboratory experiments and on macro-scale in the Scheldt estuary. (3) To bridge the gap between the measurements and the simulation and prediction of flocculation by numerical models. This involves feedback from the model to the interpretation of the measurements with the new system. Hence, the complementarity nature of this project will lead to the characterisation of the relation between flow and particle-turbulence interactions, and to the development of an integrated sediment transport model reflecting reality, which can be used for decision support.

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The inclusion of squares, taking groundwater and surface water samples, measuring flow rates, and perform analyzes in the Zegge. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KMDA. UA provides KMDA research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Development and demonstration of an efficient management tool for the integrated assessment of adaptation measures - case study: flooding in the two main Belgian river basins. 01/01/2008 - 31/01/2010

Abstract

The analysis of adaptation strategies related to flooding will be built on a schema comprising the following steps: -Evaluating secondary impacts of global change induced flooding on vulnerable sectors in river basins; -Determining adaptation measures (response); -Evaluating costs of adaption measures; -Cost-benefit analysis.

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Interactions between land reclamation or loss, and water level changes along the Schelde estuary. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Sea level rise threatens human occupation along estuaries. Sedimentation and embankment of intertidal areas (tidal flats and marshes), which form natural ecosystems along estuaries, reduces the volume of estuaries, which may contribute to additional water level changes. This is studied in the Schelde estuary, through reconstruction of the impact of historical land reclamation and loss in the seaward part of the estuary (Westerschelde), on water level changes in the more inland part of the estuary (Zeeschelde). Historical water level changes are reconstructed by (paleo-)ecological study of protist communities (diatoms, testate amoebae) in tidal marshes.

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Determining the maximum and ecological potential, together with the current state for seventeen Flemish (regional) water bodies that can be compared to the category of lakes- partim Galgenweel. 01/11/2007 - 01/12/2008

Abstract

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Nutrient cycling in wetlands along a climatological gradient: effects of fertilization, drainage and climate. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

One of the most important ecosystem processes is decomposition. Decomposition plays a key role in the nutrient cycle, and is one of the main factors limiting plant growth. In addition it can substantially influence species composition. Goose numbers have increased dramatically over the past 50 years mainly due to land use changes and a reduced hunting pressure in their wintering grounds. To understand fully the consequences of these changes, studies on ecosystems processes on both the wintering grounds in temperate regions and the breeding grounds in the high arctic are indispensable. In this project we will investigate how geese influence decomposition processes and related processes: besides decomposition the nitrogen and carbon cycle, the microbial communities and the availability of nutrients for plants will be studied .

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Biogeochemical cycle of heavy metals in natural freshwater tidal marshes and in flood control areas. 01/10/2007 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

As a transition zone between land and sea, estuaries accommodate specific and valuable ecosystems and often act as a filter for the load of nutrients and pollutants increased by human activities. Intertidal areas play a key role in these functions. The area of natural tidal wetlands can be extended by bringing the planned controlled flooding areas under influence of the tide. Within the pilot project of the controlled inundation area with controlled reduced tide (CRT) Lippenbroek and mesocosm experiment in Kruibeke it is the aim to have a clear view on the effect of the present metal contamination of the areas fringing the river Scheldt. The main interest will be metal bioavailability and the interaction with biota. We will investigate the total metal cycle in plants from uptake to decomposition. The biogeochemical cycle of metals will be compared between the CRT, embarked areas and natural tidal marshes.

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Macrophyte patches as biogeochemical hotspots: impact on river water quality? 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Macrophyte patches as biogeochemical hotspots: impact on river water quality? 1. Problem Macrophytes play an important role in the structural biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems. Being primary producers, they are a matter of life and death for many organisms. Even on a ecosystem level, they take a central role, but the processes here involved are not yet well known. Though, a good knowledge is crucial to be able to take correct management decisions concerning the improvement of our fresh water ecosystems. On top of this, the presence of macrophytes has an even greater influence on the hydraulics. Macrophytes act as ecological engineers and have therefore a direct influence on stream velocity patterns and on sedimentation and erosion patterns. Changes in these patterns have immediate consequences on biodiversity and geomorphology. 2. Objectives I want to test the main concept of macrophytes being biogeochemical hotspots. After all, there are strong indications that the processes in the sediments underneath macrophyte patches can have greater impact on the water quality than the typically studied pelagic processes. To test this hypothesis, three questions are postulated: 1) Are macrophyte patches biogeochemical hotspots and at what quantity? 2) Which is the maximal length and width a patch can have under certain circumstances? 3) What is theoretically the maximal surface patches can have in a river stretch, given certain circumstances (and what is the total effect of these patches on the water quality, regarding question 1)? 3. Methodology Question 1) will be answered by gathering field data. The organic material from selected patches will be characterized and processes such as denitrification and silica transformation are followed up. All these data will be merged with patterns of stream velocity and sedimentation and erosion in and around the patches. Afterwards, results are analyzed with a diagenetic model and statistically tested. Question 2) will be answered by placing in situ flumes around patches in rivers. In these flumes, the patch growth limiting factors such as stream velocity and erosion-sedimentation will be quantified. Additionally, a great number of patches throughout the country will be measured to verify field flume data. Question 3) will be answered with the Delft-3D model. Data from question 1) will calibrate the model, data from question 2) will validate the model. With this model, I want to estimate the impact of macrophyte patches on the water quality of larger parts of rivers (e.g. 100-1000 m).

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Summer Course Sustainable Water Management & Technology in Urbanised Areas. 01/06/2007 - 14/03/2009

Abstract

Scientific understanding and technological knowledge are crucial factors to protect the water resources and to meet the water goals of the UN millennium declaration (World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002). Certainly the increasing world population living in urbanised areas demands a sustainable management of water resources. This summer course focuses on a pragmatic application of new technologies for water use and reuse based on an integrated water resources management approach on a river basin scale. The program aims at strengthening the capacities and skills of people with a basic knowledge of water treatment. The main topics that will be addressed are: 1. Water quality: technology for achieving discharge or (process) water quality standards; 2. Water scarcity: saving water and water loop closure; 3. Water quality: impact evaluation of discharges on receiving water bodies; 4. Water management in large cities

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Project website

Eco-hydrological and socio-economical approach for the restoration of the lagoon Merja Zerga in Morocco. 27/04/2007 - 15/06/2007

Abstract

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  • Promotor: El Kahloun Mohssine

Research team(s)

Durable living and building as a lever for education for durable development. Audit of actors, offer, support and recommendations for policy. 15/02/2007 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

The aim of this study is to inventarise all types of education in Flanders concerning 'Sustainable housing and buidling' for professionals. The inventory includes stakeholders, courses, objectives, initiatives, projects and material. Based on this and on an evaluation of all courses to a reference, recommendations are developed to enhance sustainable education for 'housing and building'.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: de Deckere Eric

Research team(s)

Project website

Study for the drawing up and implementation of a monitoring program for environmentally friendly banks along the sea canal in Grimbergen. 01/01/2007 - 31/01/2011

Abstract

A variety of foreshores were built along the canal connecting the Scheldt and Brussels. These were installed a few meters from the shore, with several pipes connecting them to the canal. An almost isolated stretch of water is thus created between theses foreshores and the bank where the dynamics of the water are less pronounced than in the canal. Both the foreshores and the enclosed water bodies can provide a habitat for several plant and animal species and will, therefore, not only offer protection, but also increase biodiversity. In this study we will attempt to quantify the effect of these foreshores on biodiversity. The main species groups that will be studied during these few years are: vascular plants, fish, macro-invertebrates and birds. Changes in species composition will be used to evaluate function for the type and time evolution of foreshores. This study aims to offer recommendations for foreshore-types that have the biggest effect on biodiversity.

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Taxonomic turnover in terrestrial and aquatic diatom communities: integration of macroecological, morphological, phylogenetic-evolutionary and ecophysiological approaches. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The current proposal aims at contributing to a better understanding of the relationship between historical-evolutionary, ecological and neutral mechanisms and observed patterns in endemism, latitudinal diversity gradients and regional species turnover in terrestrial and lacustrine diatom floras. We will therefore (1) construct the first global, intercalibrated, species-level taxonomic dataset for these diatoms; and (2) using our extensive culture collection, and for a selection of representative genera and species(complexes), investigate (i) to what extent phylogenetic history can explain the geographical variation in diversity patterns at the population, species and genus level and (ii) how these patterns correlate with variation in life history characteristics and ecophysiology amongst and within species.

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Land Use Changes and Si Transport through the Scheldt River Basin. (LUSi) 01/01/2007 - 31/07/2009

Abstract

This project aims to answer the question if Si fluxes through a river basin, and ultimately towards the sea, can change because of land use changes. These changes will be budgeted for the Scheldt basin, taking into account surface runoff, subsurface drainage and storage and cycling through vegetation. The results will be used to evaluate the effect of land use changes over historical times on Si fluxes. Moreover, it is the aim to formulate recommendations towards land planning with respect to the reduction of eutrophication, working from the viewpoint of Si in the nutrient ratios. As such, this study of Si can provide a mirror image for the N and P side of the eutrophication problem, and provide invaluable, new insights in our evolving concept of eutrophication.

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Habitatcharacteristics and pollution as driving factors for the occurence of macroinvertebrates. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Macroinvertebrates differ in their sensitivity for pollution. Effects caused by pollution can be detected in many parameters like acute mortality, behavioral changes and growth decrease. Of some macroinvertebrate species it is shown that they can actively detect and avoid pollution. On sites were no pollution occurs, some taxa can however still be absent. Next to pollution, structural characteristics of the ecosystem also influence the distribution and composition of the population. The aim of this research project is to investigate the sensitivity of different macroinvertebrate species for pollution and to investigate their habitatpreferences. Furthermore there will also be looked at which factor (pollution/habitat) is in fact the most determining for the species distribution and occurrence. The sensitivity of the macroinvertebrates for both heavy metals and organic pollutants will be calculated by analyzing the database of the Flemish Environment Agency. Next to the sensitivity analyses also the differences between the populations at Flemish sites with sand/clay/stones as substratum will be investigated. In the second part of this research topic, the habitatpreferences en ability to detect pollution will be investigated using flume-experiments.

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Macrophytes and nutrient dynamics: process and field studies in the upper reaches of river basins - Manudyn II. 15/12/2006 - 31/01/2009

Abstract

In general, the turbidity of our rivers has significantly decreased since more waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) are operational. The increased light availability enables the germination and subsequently the growth of macrophytes. Their presence alters the hydraulics of these rivers in such way that water discharge is hampered and flooding risk increases. Mowing macrophytes is therefore frequently applied in management strategies to avoid flooding in urban areas. The Manudyn I project focused on the role of macrophytes in nutrient cycling in the Nete catchment and results indicated that macrophytes do have an impact on the nutrient balance in rivers. Additionally, it was demonstrated that macrophytes also incorporate metals, such as copper, from the sediments, thereby playing an important role as natural sediment decontaminators. However the mechanisms underlying the macrophyte-nutrient interactions are not well understood yet. Furthermore, the flume experiments in the Manudyn I project revealed that a clear difference exists in nutrient take up behaviour between different macrophyte species. Therefore, the Manudyn II project will mainly focus on process studies. The objective is to describe and understand the uptake, allocation and possible release of nutrients and metals related to the growth and decomposition of some highly abundant river macrophytes. The results will be used to develop new models describing the processes at different experimental scales and refine models that were developed within the scope of the first Manudyn project. This will be done by executing several work packages. The first work package tackles small scale experiments, i.e. at the level of a single macrophyte specimen. The second work package deals with experiments at the level of a macrophyte patch and the third one will undertake field experiments with different macrophyte patches. In the fourth work package, modelling approaches will be applied at the different scales.

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Survey of the running monitoring projects with regard to safety against flooding and naturalness in the Seascheldt, its tide bound siderivers and the innerbank areas influenced by the Sigmaplan. 02/11/2006 - 31/03/2008

Abstract

This project aims to acquire an overview of all running or past safety and water quality monitoring projects on the Zeescheldt and its tide-influenced tributaries. The analysis frequency for the different parameters at all monitored locations will be provided, and overlap between parallel monitoring programmes will be evaluated. Cooperation with a similar Dutch project, will reassure complementarity between the Dutch and Flemish analyses. In the end, a reworked monitoring programme will be conceived, that approaches the monitoring of safety and ecology in both countries in an integral way.

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How do wetlands influence transport of Si through river basins? Quantification of biological Si retention and recycling. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

The project aims to gain understanding in the currently unstudied role of wetlands in retention and recycling of Si. This is an essential, yet overlooked link in our knowledge of the global Si cycle. The research hypothesis is that vegetation type, flooding regime and draining capacity all strongly influence the Si processing in wetlands. Higher flooding frequency results in a higher capacity to retain biogenic Si, while drainage capacity is positively related to recycling potential. Human activity can lead to a changed Si-N-P ratio, and as a result functioning of wetlands in the biogeochemical Si cycle could change. Reference research is therefore conducted in the "pristine" Bierbza valley (Poland) and compared to research in human influenced wetlands in Flanders.

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Development and geometric properties of tidal channel networks: implications for the creation of new tidal areas. 01/10/2006 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

During the last decennia, many natural tidal areas (tidal marshes, tidal flats) have been lost, e.g. by dike building along coasts and estuaries. Recently, embanked areas (polders) are set back to tidal influence, in order to restore water storage and natural habitat. The succes of these projects strongly depends on the development of tidal channels, because these channels act as transport paths of water, sediments and nutrients. In this project we examine (1) the geometric properties of tidal channel networks in existing tidal areas, (2) the development of tidal channel networks in a newly created tidal area, and (3) the role of vegetation for channel development. This research is conducted in the Schelde estuary (Belgium, SW Netherlands).

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Effect of nutrient limitation (phosphorus limitation) on the floristic diversity in an undisturbed wetland. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2008

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Vegetation succession and biogeochemical cycles in a developing tidal marsh in a controlled flood area subject to a controlled reduced tidal regime. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

As a transition zone between land and sea, estuaries accommodate specific and valuable ecosystems and often act as a filter for the load of nutrients and pollutants increased by human activities. Intertidal areas play a key role in these functions. The area of natural tidal wetlands can be extended by bringing the planned controlled flooding areas under influence of the tide. Within the pilot project of the controlled flooding area Lippenbroek and mesocosm experiments in Wilrijk and Kruibeke it is the aim to have a clear view on the development of a tidal marsh in these newly constructed habitats. In this study the emphasis will be put on the development of the vegetation and its role within biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and heavy metals under controlled reduced tide.

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Formulation of objectives for ecological infrastructure in the port of Antwerp. 01/10/2006 - 31/03/2007

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Eco-hydrological and socio-economical approach for the restoration of the lagoon Merja-Zerga in Morocco. 01/09/2006 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

The degradation of the natural resources of the coastal lagoon Merja Zerga in Morocco (MZ) is an environmental problem with major impact on the quality of life of the local population. We will use this problem as a model for improving the capacity of the DREME of the ENFI to strengthen its role in monitoring environmental and socio-economical data. These data are needed to support the decision making for environmental protection. Environmental sustainability is the focus,but it cannot be looked at in isolation from economic and social sustainability. In this context, economic, social, and ecological criteria will be defined and the project takes a rather broad perspective by supporting the development of the Integrated Development Planning framework in the region, mainly the implementation of the Management Plan of the MZ reserve which is being developed by the "Haut Commisariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre Ia Desertification", (HCEFLCD) of Morocco. Furthermore, special attention is paid to the extension aspect by implementing the Southern units collaboration with other academic and governmental institutions.

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Impact of fast and slow climate change on biodiversity and landscape stability: study of the Late-Glacial and Early-Holocene as a reference for the present-day climate change. 01/07/2006 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

Recent research predicts that the present-day climate change threatens the biodiversity and landscape stability on earth. These predictions are, however, difficult to test. As a reference for the present-day climate change, we study in this project the impact of fast and slow climate changes, which happened during the past, on biodiversity and landscape stability. We study this, using alluvial deposits in Flanders and pollen preserved in these sediments. Special attention is paid to the interactions between vegetation and landscape changes in response to climate change.

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Towards understanding commmunity assembly rules during floodplain restoration. 01/02/2006 - 31/01/2007

Abstract

The research questions will be tackled by conducting (1) a field survey of the restored floodplain communities in various stages of development, (2) a mesocosm experiment, in which effects of flooding regime and vegetation mowing on species establishment will be investigated and (3) a fertilisation experiment, in which effects of productivity and light availability on species establishment will be studied.

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Study of the effects of woody encroachment and eutrophication on the greenhouse warming potential and plant diversity in an undisturbed wetland. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

The main objectives of this proposal are: 1) to assess the global warming potential of wetlands in the upper basin of the Biebrza river; 2) to determine the potential effects of woody encroachment, desiccation and eutrophication on plant diversity and on the warming potential; 3) to simulate future changes and predict the efficiency of protective measures.

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Physical disturbance of intertidal areas by wave action of shipping. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

The Scheldt estuary is both economically and ecologically of high importance. The ecological functioning suffers from excessive hydrological dynamics. In this project one aspect of dynamics is focused upon: wave action by shipping. Factors influencing wave generation are evaluated. The effect of waves from shipping activity on the physical disturbance of intertidal mudflats is assessed.

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ADAPT - Towards an integrated decision tool for adaptation measures - Case study: floods - phase one. 15/12/2005 - 14/12/2007

Abstract

Adaptation measures are necessary for protecting populations and ecosystems against climate-related hazards in the next decades (IPCC, 2001; EEA, 2004). The overall objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate an efficient management tool being a cost-benefit analysis based instrument for the integrated assessment of adaptation measures against risk of floods in Belgium. The project consists in developing a commune methodology based on the existing knowledge and facts which concern the effects of climate change, their intensity and probable progression in time. This methodology will be refined by a "case study" (Meuse and Scheldt basins). The approach take into account the Hydrologic (Ulg), economic (ULB), social (HIVA; KUL) and environmental impacts (ECOBE; UA), and their mutual interaction in accordance with the principle of development and sustainable management (ECOLAS). The contribution of the ECOBE group (UA) focuses on the impact of climate change inducing flood on the ecological values of the ecosystems. Furthermore, potentialities for adaptations measures combining nature and safety will be investigated. Expected research results: - Identification and classification of potential impacts of climate change in Belgium - An assessment of the overall state of the art concerning flood risk and damage, mitigation options and their related infrastructures o updated discharges for different return periods o modified extent of flood-prone areas o vulnerability o technical aspects, availability, infrastructure, safety and range o impacts on income, land value, health and property o ecological impact, evaluation of flood risk on ecosystems good and services. o social impact, social acceptance and consumer behaviour with regard to flooding o damage cost ¿ An analysis of the infrastructures associated with these mitigation options.

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Exploring study into eutrophication in Flanders 01/12/2005 - 30/06/2006

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The organization of scientific study days concerning marine information system. 01/11/2005 - 31/10/2007

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Nutrient cycling in wetlands along a climatological gradient: effects of fertilization, drainage and climate. 01/10/2005 - 30/09/2007

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Development of ecologically and ecotoxicologically founded objectives of quality for wet floors. 01/09/2005 - 31/01/2006

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Anaerobic biological purification. 01/07/2005 - 30/06/2006

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Possibilities of NTMB for the extension of the ecological infrastructure in the port of Antwerp. 01/04/2005 - 30/11/2006

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The analysis of patterns in species distribution and composition of species assemblages of bryophytes and protists in the sub-Antarctic biome. 01/04/2005 - 31/03/2006

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The objective of this study is to analyze the relationship between patterns in distribution of bryophytes and protists, species composition of species assemblages comprising these groups in the sub-Antarctic biome, and the environmental variables, especially climate, that regulate these patterns. Using a combination of latitudinal and altitudinal gradients, the different aspects of this scientific problem will be investigated.

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Models for assessing and forecasting the impact of environmental key pollutants on marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity. (MODELKEY) 01/02/2005 - 31/01/2010

Abstract

One of the driving forces for an insufficient ecological status and reduced biodiversity of freshwater and marine ecosystems is chemical stress due to environmental pollutants. The WFD classifies the quality status of aquatic ecosystems based on traditional hydromorphological, physico-chemical, biological parameters and priority pollutant (PP) concentrations. This procedure allows a rough quality assessment. However, a reliable diagnosis, prediction and forecasting of toxic impacts on aquatic ecosystems and an efficient mitigation of toxic risks demand for an identification of the respective stressors and for reliable cause-effect relationships between chemical pollution and biodiversity decline. To date severe gaps of knowledge impede the evaluation and mitigation of the causes for an insufficient ecological status in many aquatic ecosystems. MODELKEY is designed to bridge these knowledge gaps.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: de Deckere Eric

Research team(s)

Project website

Botanic values in the 'Zegge'. 01/02/2005 - 31/01/2007

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Impact of hydrology on diversity of aquatic organisms in temporary wetlands in the Cape Region (South Africa). 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

By teledetection, different types of temporary wetlands in the western Cape region will first be characterised (UGent) as a base for the study of their hydrology and ecology. On the basis of a digital terrain model and a hydrological model, run-off and interaction with the groundwater dynamics of the selected systems will next be detennined (VUB). By studying diversity and distribution patterns of important representatives of plants (UA) and invertebrates (KUL) in relation with the hydrology of the selected habitats it is finally the intention to reveal any association between community structure on the one hand and hydrology-related variables on the other (all groups). Together with the quantitative genetic study of the life history characters of selected flagship species (large branchiopods), this will allow us to study the evolutionary flexibility of species under time pressure and to model the expected distribution of species considering various scenarios of hydrological changes of the habitats. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (OW AF) will ultimately use these data to support the implementation of the legal principles stated in the National Water Act (1998) for the sustainable use of water in the region.

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Post-evaluation of river restoration projects and mitigation procedures in river management. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

A lot of river restoration projects are carried out, especially with the improving strategy of integrated water manangement. However a good scientific evaluation is often lacking. This project will focus on the evaluation of a number of diverse projects carried out by the province of Antwerp. The evaluation will be done based on a number of ecological parameters, such as macrophytes, macro-invertebrates and fish. The results of the evaluation will be used as educational material on restoration projects for water managers.

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Nitrogen processing and retention in tidal freshwater marshes: a whole ecosystem 15N labeling study. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

Fringing marshes are generally believed to act as a filter for the estuarine and riverine water because they can trap nutrients both in inorganic and organic form from the floodwater. This perception is based on classical exchange studies, where budgets for the flood and ebb water are compared. However, these studies are rather inaccurate and reveal only the overall changes. In a Flemish-Dutch co-operation project, we used the stable isotope 15N as a tracer in a large-scale experiment to study the nitrogen cycling in a freshwater marsh fringing the Scheldt River. In the field, we added 15N-ammonium to the flood water of a tidal creek feeding a marsh area (3500 m2) and subsequently traced the fate of this labelled N through the entire ecosystem. We analysed the different pools of 15N in the flood and ebb water as well as in the sediment, plants and fauna within the marsh. In addition, discharge characteristics of the creek such as tidal height, water movement and concentrations of the different N pools was measured. This whole ecosystem experiment revealed that nitrification, the oxidation of ammonium to nitrate, is one of the fundamental processes regulating the N-budget in this freshwater marsh (Fig. 1). Moreover, mass balance calculations showed that whole-system nitrification rates were much (up to 10 times) higher than obtained from measurements of nitrification in the floodwater. This suggests that this process mainly takes place on the sediment surface of the marsh. Combined with a number of other experiments dealing with the short and long term fate of N, the overall goal is to construct an integrated view of the role of tidal marshes in the nitrogen retention and processing of ammonium and nitrate.

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01/01/2005 - 30/06/2005

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01/01/2005 - 30/06/2005

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Modeling of the interactions between macrophytes and river processes and their impact on river quality. 01/12/2004 - 31/12/2008

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NELE DESMET Promotor: Prof. Dr. P. Meire (UA, Biology) Co-promotor: Dr. Ir. P. Seuntjens (VITO, Integral Environmental Studies) "Modelling Water Quality : Effects of Macrophytes" The pollutants and nutrients present in a river system are subjected to a wide range of physical, chemical and biological processes that determine their temporal and spatial distribution. Consequently modeling water quality requires a dynamic concept considering both transport and transformation processes. When using the water quality models that are currently available quite good predictions can be obtain for open water (spare vegetation), but there seems to be a lack of modeling tools that take into account the effect of aquatic vegetation. Nevertheless macrophytes, which take fully part of the aquatic system, can induce substantial changes in water quality. Some are direct effects, such as plants taking up nutrients, but other effects are merely indirect and may be due to changes in hydrodynamic or physico-chemical properties in between the macropytes. The main objectives of this project are to describe the interactions between macrophytes and the aquatic environment (water and sediment), to quantify their effects on a pollutant's fate in the river system and to implement these in water quality modeling. For that purpose different effects of macrophytes on the distribution and the (bio)availability of a pollutant will be considered. The results of this project will be useful for application in aquatic and environmental management. Integrating the aquatic vegetation in water quality modeling is necessary to obtain good predictions and simulations in (dense) vegetated river systems. Furthermore it offers a tool to evaluate management practices, such as mowing macrophytes, in relations to water quality.

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Micro- and macro-evolution of the threatened endemic giant Opuntia cacti: conservation genetics on the Galápagos archipelago. 01/10/2004 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

This project will study micro- and macro-evolutionary processes (changes in allele frequencies, genetic drift, gene flow, hybridisation, introgression, changes in DNA sequences) within the threatened giant Opuntia-cactusses on the Galápagos islands. Therefore we will combine several recently developed, genetic techniques (microsatellites, DNA sequencing), studying a unique, already available collection of samples.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The optimalisation of the mowing patterns of lowland rivers. 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

High nutrient loads to lowland rivers has resulted in an increased growth of macrophytes. To garanty the discharge capacity managers of waterways remove all vegetation. This management has a lot of negative ecological consequences and leads to high economical costs. This project has the aim to develop mowing patterns which garanty the discharge and has a low ecological impact. Besides this we shall investigate the impact of this management on bottom morfology. In short we try to get insight in the relation between macrophytes, fysical parameters and different mowing patterns. The project is divided in 4 parts : mapping out of the vegetation, ex situ and in situ experiments, sediment dynamics. The results of the mapping out shall form the basis of the ex situ experiments. Together with the results of the in situ experiments and the sediment dynamics this has to lead in a proper management of waterways. In the ex situ experiments we test the following hypthesis : emergents have a greater influence on the efficiency of the mowing patterns than submergents. The ex situ experiments shall take place in a flume which gives us the chance to control biological and fysical parameters. Altogether this has to lead to optimal dates and frequencies of mowing.

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Research team(s)

Multifunctionality of flood areas: scientific determination of the impact of water storage on nature, forestry and agriculture. 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Freshwater march and tidal flat development behind the dikes due to a reduced tide. 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

The Schelde estuary, characterised as a turbid, polluted and very eutrofic system, has nowadays reached a turning point in the restoration of its water quality. During the past century, human activities have reduced the intertidal areas, essential in the estuarine ecosystem for nutrient cycling and the self-cleaning capacity. Today, in combination with a master plan to protect the population from storm surges, an opportunity rises to recreate areas with a tidal influence. One specific option of combining safety and ecology is the creation of controlled inundation areas (CIA) under influence of a controlled reduced tide (CRT). These specific areas will differ in many ways from fully tidal areas. However, these areas can fulfil important ecological functions. The ecological development of a CRT will be investigated in the 10 ha big study area Lippenbroek. This former polder area will be turned into a small CIA-CRT to test this new concept.

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Research team(s)

01/04/2004 - 30/06/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

BOF/IWT research fellowship. 01/02/2004 - 30/09/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

A fundamental study on exchange processes in river ecosystems. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

Input of sediments, organic matter and nutrients in coastal seas by rivers and their impact on the marine ecosystem has been the subject of many research projects. However, the quality and quantity is strongly determined by upstream processes in the river basin. In recent years exercises have been made to describe transport of water, dissolved compounds and suspended or particulate matter at (sub)basin scale. Models are defined at the level of description of ecosystem typology of forests, land use, wetlands etc. along with formulation of the exchange terms between these systems.Where land and water meet we actually find ecotones: transition zones as a result of hydrodynamics with their own flora and fauna, and related intensive transformation and uptake of materials. Therefore, for an accurate description of exchange at (sub)basin scale, a detailed understanding of the functioning of such transition systems is necessary. The main goal of the research project is to investigate how the diverse physical and biological processes and their interactions determines the exchange of water, dissolved compounds and particulate matter in margins and inundation areas of water courses. These two transition systems are characteristic for river basins. To achieve the main aim it is necessary to develop models for margin and inundation area. Multidisciplinary research and integrated modelling of hydrological transport characteristics and biological (transformation) processes is required. The coupling of different models and model descriptions forms a methodological challenge in this proposal. Besides general models on ground water flow, hydraulics and biological features, a few distinctive interaction zones can be recognized, for which exchange processes will be investigated and modelled in detail: 1.interaction of shallow ground water with wetland or terrestrial ecosystems 2.interaction of deep ground water with the water course 3.interaction of water course with the margin 4.interaction of shallow and/or deep ground water with the inundation area 5.interaction of water course with inundations area Model formulations of exchanges and underlying processes is first and foremost determined by the component of study. There are three groups of components with their own characteristic 'exchange' descriptions, namely water, dissolved components and particulate or suspended matter. Nitrogen is selected as an 'illustrative' element for the models. Its transport is determined by processes in all interaction zones and it may appear in both dissolved and particulate form.

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Research team(s)

Study of the actual, past and future biodiversity of protists and higher plants on a subantarctic island : role of dispersion, colonisation and resistance to climatic warming (DIVCRO). 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

The proposed project studies the fundamental biological factors that determine the biodiversity and the evolution in this diversity in protistological and vegetal communities. The project aims to place the biodiversity in a temporal fi-amework: {I) do the dispersion and colonisation ofprotists influence the diversity in the communities, {II) how do the communities respond to changes in their physical environment {manipulation of temperature) and {III) what evolution is present in the subfossil material? {I) The unicellular organisms are easily transported by wind and animals. Therefor, their -dispersion determines the diversity of the present communities. What is the density, the quality and diversity of protists in the air on the subantarctic islands? Moreover, the colonisation is linked with the dispersion. What is the colonisation speed of protists on the new substrates? What is the colonisation sequence? {II) If we manipulate the microclimatic parameters on the vegetational stratum, how will the communities be affected? By heating small areas with infi-ared radiation systems, a future temperature increase is simulated in order to evaluate the responses of the protists and plants. {III) Even in the past, the climatic events had their influence. Using peat cores {already collected on previous summer campaigns), we will reveal the climatic history of lIe de la Possession and we will discuss the evolution in the diversity of protist communities during the Holocene.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

01/01/2004 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Micro- and macro-evolution of the threatened endemic giant Opuntia cacti: conservation genetics on the Galápagos archipelago. 01/01/2004 - 30/09/2004

Abstract

This project will study micro- and macro-evolutionary processes (changes in allele frequencies, genetic drift, gene flow, hybridisation, introgression, changes in DNA sequences) within the threatened giant Opuntia-cactusses on the Galápagos islands. Therefore we will combine several recently developed, genetic techniques (microsatellites, DNA sequencing), studying a unique, already available collection of samples.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Verdyck Peter

Research team(s)

Communications and popularization platform of the Belgian Polar research. 15/12/2003 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Belgian Polar research cluster. (BE-POLES) 15/12/2003 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Typology, Reference Condition and Classification of the Belgian coastal waters (REFCOAST). 15/12/2003 - 30/04/2006

Abstract

This project is meant to implement the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) for the Belgian coastal waters. The exact details of how the implementation should be performed are to be listed. Eventually the ecological quality of the coastal zone should be able to be evaluated according to a scoring system that preferably takes into account an existing or constructed reference condition. First all necessary data and literature will be centralized. Next a reference condition is constructed, taking into account parallel work in the neighboring countries. Several existing scoring systems will be evaluated and tested for the Belgian coastal water body types. If necessary, an adapted scoring system will be constructed. Missing quality elements will be recorded and advise for further monitoring will be expressed.

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Research team(s)

Relationships between ecological and chemical status of surface waters. (REBECCA) 01/12/2003 - 30/11/2006

Abstract

The objective of REBECCA is to provide underpinning for one of the key scientific principles on which the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is based, i.e. that relationships between the biological state and physical and chemical properties of surface waters are sufficiently well understood to enable the management of catchments and rivers to achieve ecological objectives. Historically, there has been great success in maintaining and improving the quality of surface waters by developing and understanding of the links between anthropogenic pressures (e.g. water abstraction, agriculture, and effluent discharges) and the chemical status of waters, although there remain many challenges in reliably designing and implementing the necessary programmes of measures. Our present understanding of the link between chemical properties and ecological state, while good in some instances, is generally not adequate to support management intervention against ecological objectives.

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Research team(s)

Chemical water quality assessment of the Kleine and Grote Nete river-basins, on behalf of management and protection of fish-stocks. 01/12/2003 - 29/02/2004

Abstract

From January 2003 until January 2004, 28 physico-chemical parameters will be analysed on 78 sample-sites distributed over de the Kleine and the Grote Nete river-basins. According to the seasons, four samples per year will be taken at each site. The results will be discussed and presented as an advice on to the fish-restocking program.

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Research team(s)

Landscape ecological and ecohydrological research for the elaboration of a ecosystemvision of "Grote en Kleine Nete" regarding the updating of the SIGMAPLAN. 01/11/2003 - 31/10/2005

Abstract

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Study of the current, subfossil and future bio-diversity in the subantarctic region: the role of dispersal, colonization and resistance to climatic warming. 01/10/2003 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

The role of a freshwater marsh in the silica cycle in the Schelde estuary 01/10/2003 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

Silica plays a major role in eutrophication of coastal waters around the world. Mechanisms controlling the production and fate of silica in estuarine systems are far from understood. Major indications have been reported that intertidal areas may be an important reservoir of silica in estuarine systems. This project intends to clarify the role of a freshwater marsh in the silica cycle within the Schelde estuary. Different silica pools in the marsh (vegetation, sediment, pore-water, groundwater and surface water) will be quantified. During a whole year, on a two-monthly basis, silica content of these pools will be monitored in different vegetation types. Interactions between the different silica pools will be studied by decomposition and dissolution experiments, both in situ and ex situ. Mass-balances will be performed seasonally to attain insight in exchange of silica between intertidal and subtidal area. In the end, these major goals will allow to construct an integrated view of the role of freshwater tidal marshes in the silica cycle within an estuarine system, by focusing on retention and processing of silica within the marsh.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Typology and management of fishing waters. 01/09/2003 - 31/10/2003

Abstract

The goal of the project is gathering information and the scientific support for fish stock management on different water types and the fish stock potential of these fishing waters.

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Research team(s)

Ecosystem modelling to support strategical environmental impact assessment for the Sigma plan. 01/06/2003 - 31/10/2004

Abstract

In order to assess the effects on the ecosystem of interventions (nature development, engineered interventions...) in the framework of the Sigma, an existing model of the Westerschelde (MOSES) will be extended to the Zeesschelde (upto Ghent). Purpose of this research is to get a policy supporting instrument that explicitly takes uncertainty in the knowledge into account.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Population density and status of the weatherfish (M. fossilis) in the Flemish reserve "'t Goorken" in Arendonk. 01/05/2003 - 30/11/2003

Abstract

Distribution of the weatherfish (M. fossilis) in Flanders as part of the case-study in `t Goorken. The status of the species in this reserve is represented as population size and age-class distribution.

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Research team(s)

03/04/2003 - 02/01/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Set up of a common strategy for the development of uniform environmental quality criteria for soil, water (both ground- and surface water) and air. 15/01/2003 - 15/01/2004

Abstract

Risk evaluation has to be the basis for the scientific development of environmental quality criteria. Risk evaluation, for all environmental compartments and receptors, is based on three aspects. The first aspect is hazard characterization. In this part information is collected over the hazard effects of a contaminant and over the dose-response relations. Exposure assessment is the second stage. The behavior of a contaminant and the risk of exposure for the potential receptors will be quantified. Finally the results of the hazard characterization and the exposure assessment will be combined. This can result in a risk characterization and / or quality standards which are based on selected criteria. This project will focus on the development of a common strategy based on this approach for the different environmental compartments.

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Research team(s)

Changes in metal biogeochemistry resulting from wetland creation : bioavailability, toxicity and risk. 01/01/2003 - 31/08/2006

Abstract

In the vicinity of rivers, flooding of available lowlands can be considered as a possibility to store river water temporarily at high water, minimizing the flooding danger of inhabited areas. It can function as a tool to deal with excessive water quantities, fitting in the concept of Integral Water Management. Creation of wetlands or controlled flooding areas can also be considered to develop a habitat for specific animal or plant species. However, due to industrial activities river water, soils, and sediments are often contaminated by metals. This can result in limitations to the ecosystem development or increased transfer of heavy metals to the food chain. As metals can accumulate, created wetlands can only be sustained if processes affecting metal mobility are thoroughly understood and metal fate can be predicted. However, they can be designed based on different flooding regimes, such as periodic inundations or permanent flooding, which has an impact on mobility, bioavailability and toxicity of heavy metals. The possible development scenarios when applying different flooding regimes are often inquired by governmental organisations, especially concerning polluted areas. Therefore, a thorough understanding of processes affecting metal mobility is needed to quantitatively predict the consequences of different management regimes on metal bioavailability, toxicity and ecosystem development. This study aims to contribute to management-oriented models to deal with questions arising from the creation of wetlands or controlled flooding areas. Such models should make it possible to predict trace metal behaviour and ecosystem development in controlled flooding areas. They should allow to evaluate whether and under which conditions ecosystem development may still be acceptable in terms of environmental quality and public health when choosing different wetland creation options. Moreover, criteria will be developed to appraise the risks arising from the creation of wetlands in polluted areas. Factorial experimental trials at the greenhouse scale will be set up to study biogeochemical processes as affected by different flooding scenarios. The influence of vegetation on soil biogeochemistry and, reverse, the impact of pollution on plant metal uptake, growth and development will be assessed by incorporating plant growth as a separate factor in the experimental set-up. Contaminant effects under the different management scenarios will be assessed using appropriate biomarkers and toxicity tests. Models constructed from these trials will be validated in a pilot-scale experiment. The data, constructed models and criteria will be brought together in a book and on CD-rom. Finally, the results will be disseminated to the various national and international research institutes and governmental bodies and a workshop will be organised to discuss the issue with national and international representatives of environmental departments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Macrophytes and nutrient dynamics in the upper reaches of the Schelde basin. 01/01/2003 - 30/04/2006

Abstract

For rivers, in general, it has become increasingly clear that inputs via the headwaters exceed outputs to the estuary and the adjacent coastal sea. For nutrients, there is strong evidence for retention and transformation during transport from the small headwaters to the coastal sea. For the Scheldt system, previous research has focused mainly on biogeochemical processes in the estuarine environment and much less so on the upper catchments of the basin. A specific recent feature in the upper catchments of the Scheldt basin, especially in the Nete basin, is the enhanced development of macrophytes during summer, which is apparently linked with improvement of the water quality. The huge production of biomass can cause water levels to rise, even to the brink of flooding, but on the other hand it can act as a biological filter with respect to dissolved and particulate matter. The other important group of primary producers, phytoplankton, usually dominates in zones with different characteristics compared to those where macrophytes thrive. Both groups can attain quantitatively equivalent and important yearly productions. It is the aim of this project to understand and quantify the factors controlling the appearance and development of macrophytes and to quantify the effect of macrophytes on the nutrient export to the downstream zones. The questions will be tackled by (1) a detailed macrophyte inventory within the Nete river basin and the analysis of physical and chemical controlling factors, leading to the development of a predictive model of macrophyte occurrence; (2) a set of mass balance experiments and of process studies, performed on an appropriate river reach situated along the Aa river (a tributary of the Kleine Nete river) or in the laboratory. The temporal evolution of growth and biomass of macrophyte communities will be determined over the full growth season. Flume experiments under controlled conditions will focus on nutrient retention by macrophytes and nutrient delivery by the sediment, to assess influence of e.g. stream velocity and macrophyte density. These studies will be complemented with nutrient mass balance studies in the field, for situations with and without macrophyte presence. The decomposition process of macrophytes will be followed and the contribution of macrophyte detritus to the suspended organic matter pool followed. Further information on nutrient utilization during synthesis of and on the subsequent fate of the organic matter will be followed via stable isotope composition of the essential inorganic and organic substrates. Results of the project will be put together to develop a 1D transport-reaction model of the experimental Aa river reach in order to verify the coherence of the various approaches and to test the validity of the process formulations and rates. In parallel, an available modeling package will be set-up for the Kleine Nete river system and used as a predictive tool to assess the effect of various management options on the nutrient retention within the system and on nutrient export to the downstream zones. Besides the construction of predictive instruments for the quantitative assessment of nutrient fluxes the project results will also support decision making for basin management, especially concerning macrophyte development, based on criteria such as flood protection, amenity value and biodiversity preservation.

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Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Synthesising all monitoring data of the Beneden Zeeschelde needed for the environmental license and development of a monitoring program. 06/12/2002 - 05/12/2006

Abstract

The dumping of dredged material in the Zeeschelde (B.) requires an environmental license it is necessary to know the expected effects on the ecosystem. An assessment of these effects is made on the basis on the available data, which has to be synthesised. A monitoring program is proposed in order to have optimal follow up of the expected effects. Therefore an ecosystemmodel will be used, and if necessary further developed.

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Research team(s)

Development of scores or indices for the biological quality elements 'benthos, macro-algae, angiosperms and phytoplankton' for the Flemish transitional waters according to the Water Framework Directive. 01/12/2002 - 30/11/2003

Abstract

On 23 October 2000, the EU Water Framework Directive was finally adopted. The Directive, which was published in the Official Journal (OJ L 327) on 22 December 2000 and entered into force the same day. The Water Framework Directive expands the scope of water protection o all waters and sets clear objectives that a 'good status' must be achieved for all European waters by 2015 and that water use be sustainable throughout Europe. According the directive, the individual member states are obligated to describe ecological objectives or goals for the different waters. This project includes a theoretical study about how to define these ecological objectives. More specific this study will define ecological objectives for different biological quality elements (benthos, macro-algae, angiosperms and phytoplankton). Functional-ecological theories will be used to support the objectives or goals.

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Research team(s)

01/10/2002 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

The optimalisation of the mowing patterns of lowland rivers. 01/10/2002 - 30/09/2004

Abstract

High nutrient loads to lowland rivers has resulted in an increased growth of macrophytes. To garanty the discharge capacity managers of waterways remove all vegetation. This management has a lot of negative ecological consequences and leads to high economical costs. This project has the aim to develop mowing patterns which garanty the discharge and has a low ecological impact. Besides this we shall investigate the impact of this management on bottom morfology. In short we try to get insight in the relation between macrophytes, fysical parameters and different mowing patterns. The project is divided in 4 parts : mapping out of the vegetation, ex situ and in situ experiments, sediment dynamics. The results of the mapping out shall form the basis of the ex situ experiments. Together with the results of the in situ experiments and the sediment dynamics this has to lead in a proper management of waterways. In the ex situ experiments we test the following hypthesis : emergents have a greater influence on the efficiency of the mowing patterns than submergents. The ex situ experiments shall take place in a flume which gives us the chance to control biological and fysical parameters. Altogether this has to lead to optimal dates and frequencies of mowing.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research for restoration posibilities within a riverine valley in Flanders. 01/09/2002 - 31/03/2004

Abstract

Riverine valleys in Flanders used to be characterized by a high species richness. Species richnes was a reflection of a high diversity in the abiotioc environment. However, due to intensification of the agricultural methods, nivelation of the abiotic environment occured. Hence, many species became (very) rare or even disappeared. The aim of this study is to investigate the impact of intensive agricultural landuse on the abiotic environment and species diversity. Furthermore, the possibilities for recovery will be evaluated. Scenario's will be tested, a minimal scenario and a optimal scenario. The minimal scenario will assume intensive landuse in the valley while the optimal scenario will assume no intensive agricultural landuse.

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Research team(s)

Flemish Network for Water. 01/05/2002 - 30/04/2004

Abstract

The Flemish Network for Water (VWN) aims to give a forum for discussion related to water research, between the government, the research groups and the private sector. The discussions will lead to the identification of problems and needs in the field of water system knowledge. The VWN builds up and maintains the network and makes its information available on a website. The activities the VWN plans and develop have to concern actions stated in the Environmental Policy Plan for Flanders. Expected basic activities are the organization of a Forum for Water research, the launch and organization of a metadata bank, including drawing up an inventory of all relevant and available water system knowledge in Flanders, the identification of needs for research related to reporting for environmental analysis in the context of water research, and to follow up and make announce relevant information about European initiatives concerning water.

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Research team(s)

Technical-scientific support for freshwater management against shortages and groundwater depletion. 08/04/2002 - 31/10/2010

Abstract

This projects aims at a solution for problems related, on the one hand, to water distribution during dry periods in Flemish navigable waterways and, on the other hand, to water depletion phenomena in the valleys. The first stage of the project produces a survey of all area-related water fluxes, issues and actors. Collected data are processed to compute a water balance to identify all problem-areas in the Flemish region. In a second stage the different associated actors (navigation, industry, agriculture, fishing, drinking-water supply, recreation, nature and different involved administrations) are being involved through interviews and a workshop. In a third stage a program of measures (e.g. reduction of water intakes by industry, nature & agriculture, ') is being worked out by using numerical models and cost-/benefit analysis for each waterway. This program is meant for effect-oriented implementation during shortage periods. Beside this, the goal of this project is to apply as many source-oriented measures as possible in order to decrease the occurrence of low flows and drought.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research on the impact of the Sigma plan, dredging activitities and port expansion on the environment in the Zeeschelde. Partim 8 : study of the effects of water quality and tide on flooding areas of the Zeeschelde. 01/02/2002 - 31/01/2010

Abstract

This project aims to investigate the impact of the Sigma plan, dredging activities and port expansion on the environment in the Zeeschelde. Eight work packages are involved, tackling the monitoring of fysical, chemical and biological parameters in the pelagic, intertidal and subtidal compartments, also including the lateral waste input of the zeeschelde and its major tributaries. Compilation of the data in a database is foreseen in such way that the construction of an ecological model can take place. Work package 8 contains a study of the effects of water quality and tide on flooding areas of the Zeeschelde, by use of two mesocosm experiments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research of the impact of the Sigma plan, dredging activities and port expansion on the environment in the zeeschelde: partim1: study of the water quality. 01/02/2002 - 31/01/2010

Abstract

This project aims to investigate the impact of the Sigma plan, dredging activities and port expansion on the environment in the zeeschelde. Eight work packages are involved, tackling the monitoring of fysical, chemical and biological parameters in the pelagic, intertidal and subtidal compartments, also including the lateral waste input of the zeeschelde and its major tributaries. Compilation of the data in a database is foreseen in such way that the construction of an ecological model can take place. Work package 1 (study of the water quality) contains a monthly monitoring campaign of the water quality of the zeeschelde and its tributaries, monitoring of 6 tidal cycles, and the coordination of all work packages.

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Research team(s)

Changes in biodiversity related to Global Change in subarctic communities. 01/02/2002 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Ecological characterization of European estuaries, with emphasis on the Scheldt estuary. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

Estuaries are heterogenous and dynamic systems that contain specific life communities, but they too often suffer from human impact. The complexity of estuarine systems, in particular the Scheldt estuary, demands much research. The differentiation of the financial sources enhances fragmentation of research activities. The aim of the Scientific Community is to improve integration of estuarine research, thereby supported by international scientific feedback concerning research on the Seine estuary.

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Research team(s)

Biodiversit in an arctic ecosystel: role of dispersal, colonization and resistance to climatic extremes. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Tidal freshwater marshes as processors and sinks of nitrogen in estuaries: a whole ecosystem 15N-labeling study 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

The goal of this project is to determine the role of tidal freshwater marshes in the nitrogen cycle of the Scheldt Estuary. It is generally thought that fringing marshes act as a filter for the estuarine water by removing inorganic and organic forms of nitrogen from the floodwaters or by changing the nitrogen speciation. The Scheldt Estuary, with its very densely populated watershed, is a typical example of an ecosystem receiving high loads of nitrogen and where important surfaces of tidal freshwater marshes could represent important potential N-sinks. Also, in the near future, it is planned by the regional authorities to lay out new controlled flooding areas, thereby increasing the possible filter capacity of tidal freshwater marshes. An integrative, in-situ study on the nitrogen exchange and cycling in tidal marshes will allow us not only to evaluate the role of these marshes in the estuarine nitrogen-budget, but also to identify and quantify the most important processes in the marsh that underlie this role. Classically, main approaches for studying the relationships between estuarine waters and fringing marshes suffer from inaccuracies in for instance the water budget, track only net changes, do not identify the processes and marsh compartments involved in the removal of nitrogen and are often difficult to extrapolate to a conclusive N-budget of whole marshes (Nixon 1980, Howarth 1993, Smith & Hollibaugh 1997). Recent advances in stable isotope analysis make it possible to do whole system labeling studies (Holmes et al. 2000, Middelburg et al. 2000), in which the stable isotope 15N can be used as a sensitive tracer of nitrogen cycling. We suggest to combine a whole-ecosystem labeling study with several additional studies directed at understanding the nitrogen cycling in important marsh compartments like the floodwater, sediments and macrophytes.

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Research team(s)

Demand driven, European Sediment Research Network.(SedNet) 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

SedNet provides a European platform where organisations responsible for the sustainable management of river basin/fresh water body related sediments and dredged material (problem owners) can meet and communicate with organisations (problems solvers) that help to provide solutions to their problems, in the form of tools, knowledge, technologies and expertise needed for that management. This platform supports, catalyses, optimises or facilitates: (1) demand driven research activities, (2) exchange of information between these activities, (3) co-operation between problem solvers and problem owners, (4) dissemination to, and exploitation of knowledge by problem owners, (5) publication of research results and (6) inform public and decision-makers. Furthermore, SedNet aims to complement existing EU networks and thematic working groups and aims to be an advisory board to European, national and regional authorities on sediment issues, and indirectly assist with their policy implementation.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Micro- and macro-evolution of the threatened endemic giant Opuntia cacti: conservation genetics on the Galápagos archipelago. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Verdyck Peter

Research team(s)

02/01/2001 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecological responses to changing hydrological conditions in floodplains. 11/12/2000 - 11/12/2003

Abstract

The input of nutrients and pollutants from the rivers to the coastal seas has become a point of major concern in the last decade, resulting in some major research projects like Land Ocean Interaction in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ- IGBP). It became clear that the land water interactions does not only take place in coastal areas but occurs along the whole river continuum from the source to the mouth of the river. It are the biogeochemical processes which are responsible for the major transformations of carbon and nutrients within the system. Hence it became clear that the interaction between the hydrological cycle and the ecological processes should be studied at the level of the catchment. Indeed the human impact within the catchment normally results in a change in the hydrological situation due to drainage, water abstraction and engineering works within the river. The effects start already in the small headwaters and are propagated along the whole riversystem. These changes disturb vegetation and biogeochemical processes within the system, which often results in increased losses from the system, eventually resulting in an increased input in the coastal seas, where eutrophication finally occurs. This proposal will study these important interactions in the upper Biebrza River Catchment (North-East Poland). This is still a rather natural system, although some agricultural developments might result in an increased drainage and a higher nutrient input by fertilisation. An increased drainage might influence the balance between groundwater and surface water inflow into the floodplain and the river. Both changes in hydrology and the nutrient status of the water will affect the vegetation and the biogeochemical processes. A change in water quantity and quality within the floodplain might influence the vegetation present as this is very much dependent on water depth and seasonal changes herein. An increase in nutrient availability will also affect vegetation processes, fIrst by enhancing primary production and second by changing vegetation type. Eutrophication is a complex problem, which can be induced by changing hydrological conditions (internal eutrophication) or by a higher input of nutrients from agriculture (external eutrophication). Both processes do have an impact on the water quality .On the other hand ecotopes, which are often characterised by the constitutive vegetation type, do have a certain capacity to retent nutrients. The study of the presence of different vegetation types with the nutrient characteristics in the catchment, together with the hydrological dynamics, will allow an evaluation of the impact of human activities on the eco-hydrological properties of the system.

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Research team(s)

Scientific support for the permanent project group of the Flemish Integrated Water consultation Committee (VIWC). 01/06/2000 - 31/01/2005

Abstract

The assignment contains the following objectives : a) the scientific preparation and development of a conceptual frame for the policy concerning the Flemish integrated water consultation b) the scientific support, follow-up and coordination of projects and assignments of the permanent project group of the VIWC c) the suggestion and development of a communication strategy with regards to the VIWC.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)