Research mission

The research concentrates on the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and wetlands and the processes in the land-water interaction along the whole river continuum and the river-coastal sea interaction. The studied systems vary from small streams with riparian margins over larger rivers and floodplains to estuaries. These studies, both descriptive and experimental in nature, are integrated to predict the impact of different management options on the functioning and the biodiversity of the system. The eco-hydrological research aims to analyse the impact of quality and quantity of ground and surface water on the occurrence of wetland vegetations and vice versa, based on plant ecological, biogeochemical and hydrological approaches. Several research projects deal with the effects of desiccation and eutrophication on the nutrient availability in the soil and groundwater and their impact on vegetation. A major research topic is the role of floodplains as source or sink for nutrients. The aquatic ecological research is geared towards ecological assessment of water quality, using information on fish, macro-invertebrates and macrophytes and the development of ecological assessment methods for water sediments, based on the TRIAD approach. The effects of macrophytes on water quality (nutrient retention and transformation) and quantity constitute a particular point of attention. The estuarine research is similar to previous research topics but focus on tidal systems. Special attention is paid to the role of tidal marshes as source or sink for nutrients and silica and the development of an ecosystem model describing in detail the interaction between marshes and the pelagic. With respect to ecosystem and integrated water management, several ongoing projects focus on nature restoration and development. These involve, among others, the elaboration of ecosystem visions for brook systems and restoration of the Scheldt estuary. The main aim is to strive for a system approach by coordinating and integrating larger research projects. All this information is also integrated in the development of river basin plans within the framework of integrated water management.

Expertise

  • Meire Patrick
  • Temmerman Stijn
  • Van de Vijver Bart