Reconstructing historical references for pelagic ecosystem components in the southern North Sea

Type: 
Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
programme: 
EMBC+
A wealth of recent studies illustrate how our perception of pristine conditions in the seas and oceans has shifted over generations. This is referred to as ‘Shifting Baselines’ (Pauly 1995). It is acknowledged that environmental reference conditions and targets for conservation and management must strive to integrate all available and relevant data and information for improved assessments, including incorporating historical data into conservation and management frameworks (Pinnegar and Engelhard 2008, McClenachan et al. 2012). Historical data can contribute in explaining underlying cause-effect relations in changes in the ecosystems, potentially reveal information and knowledge from past conditions (Jackson et al. 2001), and help defining reference conditions and achievable targets for environmental management today (Lescrauwaet 2013, Engelhard et al. 2015).It is in this context of ‘data archeology’that Flanders Marine Institute VLIZ dedicates substantial efforts to reconstruct timeseries and historical data that can serve as baseline or reference conditions for current (fisheries) management, and make these data available according to the principles of Open Access-Open Data. The Belgian part of the North Sea BPNS (and by extension the Southern North Sea) is among the best studied marine areas in the world. The high data-density, qualitative data on a broad range of ecosystem components, long-term/historical timeseries, and high number of specialized publications (peer-reviewed, technical reports,..)is collected, stored, described and disclosed in a structured way in the Integrated Marine information System (IMIS). This collection on data and information is managed by VLIZ with the aim to support the marine research community in the development of new research and research hypotheses. It offers unique opportunities for multidisciplinary research in the BPNS and adjacent aeras. These opportunities are particularly true for research in the context of priority policy issues such as in the context of the implementation of the EU marine strategy (MSFD 2008/56/EU)and its objective of achieving Good Environmental Status by 2020. The current research proposal aims to explore the potential of the currently available data and information to reconstruct historical references for pelagic ecosystem (plancton, pelagic fish, hydrographic and environmental parameters, fisheries,..) components in the BPNS and wider Southern North Sea.
prerequisites: 
master education level, by preference in biology or ecology good knowledge of R and statistical analysis basics in data management
Number of students: 
1
academic year: 
2015-2016
2016-2017
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Ann-Katrien Lescrauwaet
Reference Number: RP-39931