The objectives of the study are:
* To study processes important for the carbon and nutrient cycling within a tidal flat ecosystem, and between the tidal flat system and the estuary.
* Development of predictive mathematical models describing the processes and relating them to the main forcing factors for the tidal flat system. * Bridging the gap between the scales at which the processes operate and are measured, and the ecological target values for environmental management and prediction of the ecological consequences of global change.
Tidal flats are important components of macro- and mesotidal estuaries all over the world, yet the mechanistic
description of carbon and nutrient cycling within tidal flats and between tidal flats and the water column is far
from complete. This description requires the multi-disciplinary study of physical, chemical and biological
processes and fluxes at small spatial and temporal scales. In contrast, environmental management of estuarine
and coastal areas requires answers and solutions to problems posed at larger scales (estuarine scale, regional
scale). The project aims at bridging the gap between the smaller scales at which processes operate and are
measured, and the larger scales relevant for management, by explicitly studying the small scale processes and
by integrating them in mathematical models.
The project's work programme is centered around five joint field campaigns by all participants. The first four
of these are executed on a tidal flat in the Westerschelde estuary (S.W. Netherlands). Validation of the models
and predictions will be done during a final campaign in a different estuary.
The research is subdivided into three work packages.
The first package focuses on the quantification and prediction of benthic-pelagic exchange mechanisms involving
carbon and nutrients. Physical and biological processes in this exchange are considered; the processes are framed
in the context of a detailed hydrodynamical modelling of the flat. The second package considers the processes of production, mineralised and transformation of organic material
and nutrients within the sediments. Attention will be paid to primary production and to grazing processes within
the benthic small food web. The sensitivity of the overall system to the dynamics of these internal interactions
within the benthic system will be investigated.
The third package integrates the measurements performed in the first and second packages into detailed
mathematical process models for the biogeochemical processes in tidal flats sediments. The process models will
be integrated into a general ecosystem model. Upscaling of the results of the process studies to the scale of the
estuary will be considered by defining relationships between ecosystem target variables and key forcing factors
in the estuary.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
4330 EA Middelburg
PL1 3DH Plymouth
2600 MH Delft
SO14 3ZH Southampton