Investigation of the fauna associated with cobble fields in the Belgian part of the North Sea and interpretation in the framework of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Internship position (12 ECTS)
Oceans and Lakes
The seabed in the Belgian part of the North Sea is characterised by sandy sediments but also cobble fields occur in some of the gullies between sandbanks. In the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, these cobble fields have been described as extremely diverse, harbouring ecologically valuable benthic communities and serving as important spawning and feeding grounds for fish. Over the last decades, these areas have been heavily fished by trawlers. This repeated disturbance has caused severe stress for the epibenthic fauna, often characterised by fragile three-dimensional organisms and structures, which are badly damaged when stones are turned over. The cobble fields are recognised as valuable habitats within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Within this framework, a number of indicator species have been defined which should describe a good quality of the natural hard substrate habitat (e.g. the size and number of fragile species). This internship provides the opportunity to closely study the fauna in the cobble fields and to evaluate – and if relevant define new - MSFD indicators, based on samples that were collected in 2015.
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contact person last name: 
De Mesel
Other people involved: 
Dr. Ilse De Mesel (Promotor) Prof. Dr. Steven Degraer (Co-Promotor) Francis Kerckhof (Supervisor)
Reference Number: RP-48861