BEWREMABI - Belgian shipwrecks: hotspots for Marine Biodiversity
Belgian shipwrecks: hotspots for Marine Biodiversity
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Cruise information

The cruises that are organised within BEWREMABI are linked to the Marine Information and Data Acquisition System (MIDAS). MIDAS provides all kinds of cruise data, like underway data (navigation, CTD casts, meteo and sea surface data), station details, a map and links to the investigators. A list of all the cruises is now available.

Pilot study

The first scientific dives during a pilot study (2001-2003) to prepare an inventory of the fauna took place on the Birkenfels wreck in July 2001. A preliminary list of the collected species at the Birkenfels can be consulted here.

Co-authored papers (list yet incomplete)


Massin et al. (2002). Scientific diving from aboard the r/v Belgica has been employed to carry out a preliminary study of the macrofauna living on a wreck (the Birkenfels) located on the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS). The study revealed an extremely rich sessile and slow moving fauna (at least 40 species), 3 jellyfish species and 8 fish species. The presence of at least 51 species represents a biodiversity of macrofauna on the wreck that is much higher than that found in nearly all known surrounding soft bottorn communities belonging to the BCS. The covering of large parts of the wreck is represented by three species: Sarsia eximia (Hydrozoa) and Jassa herdmanni (Crustacea) associated with Tubularia indivisa (Hydrozoa). It should also be pointed out that 53 % of the species identified in this study are species not included as members of the Belgian marine fauna in a recent list dealing with offshore fauna. Moreover, some, such as Sarsia eximia or Epithonium clathratulum, previously thought to be rare, have been found in large numbers. Furthemore, Diadumene cincta and Caprella tuberculata are new species for the Belgian marine fauna.

Zintzen et al. (2004). Hard bottom substrates at sea allow the development of communities that are often rich in terms of species diversity. Non-biogenic structures such as shipwrecks are an integral part of these substrates, even if they have an anthropogenic origin and the species assemblages they harbor could be for that reason qualified as 'exotic'. There are 200 recent shipwrecks on the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS), which represent a large fraction of the hard substrate available locally; their presence has an additional interest if we know that the major part of the English Channel and Southern Bight of the North Sea consists almost exclusively of soft sediments. Five shipwrecks on the BCS will be studied in order to assess the meio- and macrofaunal diversity using direct observations and scuba sampling techniques. The soft sediments close to shipwrecks will also be studied to serve as model for areas relatively undisturbed by fisheries (untrawled). Added to this, the influence of shipwrecks on local hydrodynamics and sediment transport will favor the colonization by fragile epibenthic species and as a consequence increase habitat complexity. For each site, standard abiotic parameters and current vectors will be measured and modeled. The information will be centralized in a database and disseminated through a web site devoted to the biodiversity of the BCS. The results will be relevant to the management of the BCS; the anthropogenic hard substrates of shipwrecks can serve as a model for what will happen with the installation of offshore windmills. A brochure will increase public awareness of the importance of marine diversity, and increase public support for marine protected areas.

Supported by
the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office

General coordination: Jérôme Mallefet
Web site and databases hosted by VLIZ
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