The effect of sediment fining on sea floor ecosystem functioning

Internship position (12 ECTS)
Oceans and Lakes
Human activities in the coastal zone have drastic effects on the physical environment. Fishing, dredging and dumping, aggregate extraction and the installation of offshore windmill farms can affect the sediment and its inhabitants drastically. The effect of these changes is generally investigated through an assessment of how fauna is impacted. While this provides a lot of information about the magnitude of the effect of the human activities, it does not directly answer the “so what?” question: in what sense do these changes affect important functions of the sea floor that are involved in the provision of ecosystem services to society? The majority of coastal sediments consist of clean, coarse sands. These sands act as a filter for the water column, where efficient biogeochemical processes result in fast mineralization of organic matter. In several areas of the Belgian part of the North Sea, we observed that these sediments are either covered by finer sediments, or that finer particles are incorporated in the sand matrix. We hypothesise that this can have important consequences for the functioning of the sea floor. Therefore, we will start of series of experiments investigating the effect of sediment fining on ecosystem functioning (sensu biogeochemical cycling). This internship will contribute to this line of research, by setting up the initial methodology for controlled sediment fining and measurements of the effect of such fining on selected environmental variables. This is a highly experimental internship that will be combined with field trips to sample the necessary material for experimental incubation. The student(s) will get experience with sampling, experimental methodology and will acquire problem-solving skills
interest in experimental work
Number of students: 
academic year: 
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
contact person last name: 
Other people involved: 
Ulrike Braeckman (UGent), Elise Toussaint (UGent)
Reference Number: RP-47351