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Quality status and terrestrial inputs for the North Sea

Dutch title: Kwaliteitstoestand en stofstromen van de Noordzee. (Plan vr wet. ondersteuning v.e. beleid gericht op Duurzame Ontwikkeling-Programma duurzaam beheer van de Noordzee)
Parent project: Research action SPSD-I: Sustainable management of the North Sea, more
Reference no: MN/DD2/001
Period: November 1998 till April 2001
Status: Completed

Thesaurus terms: Coastal waters; Pollution
Geographical terms: ANE, North Sea [Marine Regions]; ANE, North Sea, Southern Bight [Marine Regions]

Institutes (4)  Top 
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Faculteit Wetenschappen & Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Chemie; Analytical, Environmental and Geochemistry (AMGC), more
  • Universiteit Antwerpen; Centrum voor Micro- en Sporenanalyse (MITAC), more
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles; Faculté des Sciences; Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l'Environnement; Unité Modélisation Biogéochimique Système Terre; Laboratory of Chemical Oceanography and Water Geochemistry (LoCGE), more
  • Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO), more, sponsor

This project covers two specific tasks in relation to a sustainable development of the North Sea: (1) drafting chapter IV of the Quality Status Report of the Greater North Sea and (2) establishing the most recent contamination fluxes from the Belgian territory to the North Sea.

Task (1):
The assessment process is based upon the most recent information available from national and international sources, including OSPAR committees and specialist working groups, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), published reports and the scientific literature. Although most of the information relates to the 1990s, some topics assessed required the use of earlier data, either because the recent record is sparse or because trend analysis involves consideration of historical data. While every effort has been made to ensure the comparability of data from different times and locations, methodologies may differ considerably and some comparisons will, inevitably, be tenuous. Chapter four contains the latest available information on developments in riverine, sea- based and atmospheric inputs of contaminants, such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, oil, radionuclides and nutrients. For the various groups of substances, geographic and temporal comparisons are made of concentrations in water, sediment and biota. Whenever possible, environmental risks are assessed.

Task (2):
Although this task is inherently linked to the former one, it only deals with the Belgian situation and the acquisition of new, unreported data. For each of the 3 Regions a state of the art on atmospheric and riverine inputs of contaminants is provided. These data will allow to establish temporal trends and to ensure that Belgium complies with the North Sea Conferences’ agreements on input reductions of hazardous substances to the North Sea.

The repartition of the workload between the members of the troïka was mainly based on a selection of contaminants: ANCH, VUB (nutrients, Hg and tributyltin); MiTAC, UIA (organic pollutants, radionuclides); Chemical Oceanography, ULB (trace metals, oils).


- The drafting of chapter IV (Chemistry) of QSR 2000. The report has been recently published.
- The drafting of the individual contaminant flux charts from land (Belgian territory) to sea and the comparison with previously established fluxes.


The co-ordinator, the Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry (ANCH, VUB) of the free university of Brussels (Dr. W. Baeyens), Member of BRUEGEL (Brussels Research Unit of Environmental, Geochemical and Life Sciences Studies) has over 30 years experience in Marine Research. The main research topics actually include pollution (trace metals, organo-metals, PCBs and dioxins) and productivity (N-cycling, Ba export).

The UIA tasks of the project are carried out in the Micro- and Trace Analysis Center (MiTAC) of Antwerp University (Dr. R. Van Grieken). The laboratory has a long experience in developing and applying various micro- and trace analytical techniques suitable for environmental research. Atmospheric pollution is a major environmental research topic.

The laboratory of Chemical Oceanography (Dr. R. Wollast) of the Free University of Brussels (ULB) is specialised in estuarine and marine research of biogeochemical processes and cycles. The laboratory was coordinator of the large-scale Ocean Margin Export project (OMEX) of the EU.

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