Testing the meiobenthic potential to cope with a multi-stressed coastal environment

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
As a result of increasing anthropogenic activities and subsequent CO2 emission, coastal marine ecosystems are progressively exposed to emergent stressors, among others ocean warming and acidification. Climate models predict that, by the end of this century, global mean surface temperatures will have increased with 1.8 to 3.5°C compared to mid-1980s, while global mean seawater pH will have dropped with 0.3 to 0.5 units compared to the pre-industrial times. These rapid rates of ocean warming and acidification affect species physiology (e.g. metabolism, feeding, reproduction and growth rates), community composition, as well as benthic ecosystem processes and biodiversity in term of species abundance, distribution, species fitness and predator vulnerability. Changes which are believed to be depend on the differential vulnerability among species and taxonomical groups. The effects of these two, and potential other stressors, on marine organisms do not act separately or in isolation, but rather additive, synergistic or antagonistic. In order to estimate the relative effect of one or both of the before mentioned stressors on the meiobenthos from a shallow coastal ecosystems, a combined stressor experiment will be performed in the Marine Biology Research lab in Gent. Sediment cores (Ø 10cm) will be incubated and monitored over a ca. 2 months period for pH and O2 profiles in the sediment, sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC), changes in meiofauna composition and more specific survival and changes in nematode community composition with depth in the sediment. Stressor levels include a seawater temperature increase of 3°C and pH level decrease of 0.3 compared to natural in situ temperature and pH. Treatments with lower pH will be manipulated by bubbling CO2 in seawater (interlock with control system) and treatment with higher temperature will be heated with heater. Temperature, pH, salinity and total alkalinity will be recorded in order to determine the carbonate chemistry of the seawater used (CO2SYS).
Number of students: 
academic year: 
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Katja Guilini
Other people involved: 
Prof. Dr. Ann Vanreusel Dr. Carl van Colen Ee Zin Ong Sebastiaan Mestdagh
Reference Number: RP-34882