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Understanding and predicting spatio-temporal, structural and functional biodiversity dynamics of zooplankton in Belgian coastal waters under climate, nutrient and pollutant stress


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By means of an integrative and interdisciplinary approach combining the research fields of marine biology and ecotoxicology, the present PhD research aims to determine the relative contribution of various changing environmental conditions and pollutants on the spatio-termporal dynamics of abundance and diversity of zooplankton in the Belgian Part of the North Sea (BPNS). Biodiversity responses will be analysed in terms of changes in abundances and diversity of zooplankton communities and (sub)populations of one or a few selected key species (e.g., calanoid copepods). Furthermore, functional biodiversity and the role of climate factors, nutrients and pollutants thereupon, will be investigated by biochemical profiling (fatty acids) of these key species as they play a pivotal role in the energy exchange between primary producers and higher trophic levels.
To adequately document the responses of zooplankton to environmental factors, monitoring with a high efficiency, high accuracy and high spatial-temporal resolution is required. The main tools for this study will therefore include a Video Plankton Recorder (VPR) in combination with a Zooplankton Scanner (ZooScan). A first phase of the research will be dedicated to the standardisation and optimalisation of these instruments for the study area and the local zooplankton communities.

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