CORDIS - EU research results
CORDIS

Dark Estuaries: Mapping coastal aquifer biodiversity in a changing world

Project description

A closer look at the health of groundwater resources

Coastal aquifers promote characteristic subsurface ecosystems at the world’s land-ocean boundaries and provide water sources for more than one billion people in coastal regions. But they are also prone to effects of climate change and human population growth. What are the drivers of biodiversity in coastal aquifers? How do they respond to environmental change? The EU-funded DARKEST project will search for answers by integrating a global database of subterranean fauna with existing geochemical data and high-resolution hydrogeology maps of the world’s aquifers. Taking a holistic approach, it will bridge scientific disciplines across ecology and geosciences. The project will identify biological communities that could serve as indicators of the health of groundwater resources.

Objective

Subterranean estuaries extend inland into coastal aquifers inhabited by a surprising diversity of subterranean animals with peculiar ecological and evolutionary features. How complex ecosystems thrive in this globally distributed habitat in different hydrological and geological settings is poorly understood. This study aims to integrate a novel global database of subterranean fauna with existing geochemical data and high-resolution hydrogeology maps of the world’s aquifers, using modern statistical and modelling methods, to achieve an integrated understanding of the drivers of biodiversity in coastal aquifers and their response to global environmental change. Indeed, coastal aquifers connect the world’s oceanic and hydrologic ecosystems and provide water source for more than one billion people in coastal regions, but these habitats are among those most prone to the long-term effects of climate change and human population growth. Therefore, expected outcomes of the study will contribute to the increasing efforts to discover, describe, and sustain groundwater-dependent ecosystems and to identify biological communities that could serve as indicators of the health of groundwater resources. To achieve these goals, a holistic approach is proposed that bridges scientific disciplines across ecology and geosciences. The project also targets to build the foundation for my long-term plans, that is, to reintegrate in Europe and establish myself as a leading expert in the emerging field of Earth System Ecology. Ensuring success, I will be supervised by host Diego Fontaneto, an expert in ecology, evolution, and large-scale patterns of biodiversity of microscopic animals at the Water Research Institute of CNR in Italy. Moreover, I will benefit from interactions with secondment-host Nils Moosdorf, who has expertise in aquifer hydrogeology, data-driven geoscience, and mega-scale hydrological modelling, at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research in Germany.

Coordinator

CONSIGLIO NAZIONALE DELLE RICERCHE
Net EU contribution
€ 183 473,28
Address
PIAZZALE ALDO MORO 7
00185 Roma
Italy

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Region
Centro (IT) Lazio Roma
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 183 473,28