Long term trends in the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf
Introduction Methods Taxonomy Distribution Project info Atlas

The project at a glance:

Project partners

Marcobenthos material of the North Sea has been collected by both the Marine Biology Section of Ghent University and the Department of Sea Fisheries in Ostend. Data on species records from both institutions have been integrated in one database, together with taxonomic information and descriptions of the species found.

The project is a collaborative venture between three partners: Marine Biology Section of Ghent University (RUG), Sea Fisheries Department (SFD) and the Flanders marine Institute. It has been made possible by the support of the Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural affairs of the Prime Minister, Belgium (Belgian Federal Science Policy Office). RUG and SFD are responsible for delivering the data; the data is quality-controlled and stored in the marcodat database at the RUG. VLIZ is responsible for the development of a web interface, on which the information from the Marcrodat database is combined with information from two other VLIZ databases, WoRMS for taxonomic information (including description, synonymy and classification) and IMIS for bibliographical information. Apart from the web site, all the information will also be made available in a CD-rom compilation and in book-format.

For project details, please refer to IMIS

The Marine Biology Section of Ghent University has been involved in ecological and systematic research of marine ecosystems from 1970 onwards. The research started with the investigation of North Sea benthic communities, with special focus on the macro- and meiobenthos. From 1980 onwards, research was expanded to include the hyperbenthic and epibenthic compartments. Research is still going on in the North Sea and adjacent estuaries (SSTC and FWO programmes). Next to the biological subjects (for which the marine biology section is equipped with the best microscopes and a very extensive library) also more geochemical characteristics are determined and analysed.

Role in the project:

  • General coordination between associated partners
  • Compilation of all available meta-data and macrobenthos data for the periods 1976-1986 and 1994-2001 from SMB and DVZ
  • Integration of all data within the already existing Access database MACRODAT, created by SMB (Tim Deprez)
  • Composing the distribution atlas of the macrobenthos of the Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS)
  • General processing of the data in order to meet the postulated goals
  • Reporting to the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office/DWTC administration

Research at the Sea Fisheries Department is strongly service-oriented towards international scientific organizations and management bodies, the government, the fishing industry and the consumer. The main task of the department is to provide the scientific basis for the rational and sustainable exploitation of living marine resources, the protection of the marine environment as a habitat for these resources, and the quality control and assurance of fishery products. Therefore is the department active in four different research areas, which overlap each other.

The Biology Section does fundamental and applied research on the life history aspects, the population dynamics and the exploitation patterns of commercial fish and shellfish. Besides, attention is paid to the artificial rearing for restocking purposes and aquaculture of shellfish. The research area is the monitoring, in which various routine research programmes are carried out on the possible repercussions of contaminants on the marine ecosystem. Emphasis is put on the biological monitoring of sand extraction areas and dredge spoil disposal sites, and the chemical monitoring of trace metals, PCBs, PAHs, and volatile organic compounds.

Furthermore, histo-pathological, bacteriological and biological effects techniques are used to examine the impact of diseases, parasites and contaminants on fish and shellfish. The major aim for the Fishing Gear Technology Section is the development of "efficient" fishing gear, thereby combining technical, biological, ecological and economic concerns. This comprises the improvement of existing fishing gears, the introduction of new fishing methods in the national fishery, and the design of completely new gears. Present-day gear research emphasises the development of more selective fishing gears and the reduction of their adverse environmental impact The Product Technology Section is actively involved in the development of methods to determine the authenticity and the quality of fishery products. Authenticity is being investigated by generating species-specific protein and/or DNA-patterns. Research on the quality of fishery products chiefly focuses on the assessment and the maintenance of freshness at the primary production site.

Role in the project:

  • Supplying of meta-data and macrobenthos samples (filling up all possible gaps within the knowledge of the spatial distribution of the macrobenthos of the BCS)
  • Co-editing and composing of the distribution atlas of the macrobenthos of the BCS
  • Compiling of information regarding anthropogenic activities during period 1977-2000
  • Integration of all new data within the database

The main task of VLIZ is supporting scientific research in the coastal area. In order to do so, it developed a co-ordinationforum, an oceanografic platform and the Flanders Marine Data and Information Centre. Besides, the institute acts as contact point and provides advices on demand of the governement or on our own initiative. The VLIZ contributes also in popularising science, in sensitising and further expanding our marine multi mediacentre. The VLIZ has an interface function between the scientific community, the public authorities and the public at large.

Role in the project:

  • Creating of a database (MACROBEL) with all available and newly gathered macrobenthos data of the BCS for the periods of 1976-1986 and 1994-2001.
  • Design of an interactive website based on the above mentioned database and coupled to a Geographical Information System (GIS), wherefrom spatial distribution maps may be generated of the macrobenthos species and communities on the BCS.
  • Co-editing and publishing of a distribution atlas (book format A5/B5) of the macrobenthos on the BCS, based on the most prevalent macrobenthos species
  • Supplying of photographs illustrating the species in the distribution atlas