Predictive modelling of the abundance and biomass of functionally important species

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Sea floor sediments are an important component of the marine ecosystem. In coastal areas, about 30% of the pelagic primary production ends up at the sea floor. This organic matter is mineralized, end the resulting products of this mineralization process (inorganic nutrients) are returned to the water column where they are needed for the following phytoplankton bloom. These mineralization processes are affected by the activities of the organisms living in the sediment. They bring organic matter deep in the sediment, provide oxygen to deeper layers and remove toxic substances…All this depends on the functional attributes of the organisms. Two important functional attributes are “mobility” and “sediment reworking mode”. These attributes, together with the abundance and biomass of the organisms is at the base of an index, the Bioturbation Potential of the Community (BPc). Recently, we showed that this index is very important when it comes to modeling important benthic mineralization processes. A next step is the modeling of the components of this index. This can be done by modeling the actual abundances and biomass of those species that contribute largely to the final score of BPc (and hence to the benthic ecosystem functioning). Therefore, we (1) will use existing data, available at ILVO and the Marine Biology Research Group, to model biomass and densities of functionally important species, and (2) we will test the relation with ecosystem functioning with newly available data collected in an ongoing project. By doing so, a first step towards the modeling of the BPc scores is taken, which in the end will lead to the production of an ecosystem functioning map for the Belgian Part of the North Sea. In addition, it will set a procedure for similar exercises in different areas in other European countries.
Number of students: 
academic year: 
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Jan Vanaverbeke
Other people involved: 
Gert Van Hoey
Reference Number: RP-39821