Nature Changes & Solutions | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Nature Changes & Solutions

We only have a very fragmented understanding on how species traits, species interactions and evolution of individual species contribute to ecosystem functions. Natural ecosystems are often too complex and work at a too large scale to replicate them under controlled laboratory conditions. VLIZ aims to combine seascape ecology, community ecology and evolutionary biology to gain better insights into the functioning of marine ecosystems.

We will use genetic techniques to automatically capture large amounts of species traits and use this information for statistical and mathematical models to identify key traits and key species in species-rich planktonic ecosystems and to identify ecosystem functions. As stated in a strategic document on marine ecosystem modeling, the use of -omics data is one of the most important emerging techniques in this research area. We are also interested in the extent to which environmental changes affect the species composition of communities, and thereby their ecosystem functions, or the genetic profile of species within populations.

In another research line, we aim to unravel to what extent natural systems and processes can be integrated with man-made structures in order to improve their functions or offer ecological added value. In this context, we will study the colonization by ecosystem engineers such as polychaetes or bivalves of shallow natural and artificial habitats in the context of coastal protection infrastructure.

People working on this topic

Related projects

  • GEANS – Genetic tools for Ecosystem Health Assessment in the North Sea region [more]
  • BeRMS2020 – an innovative census of the Belgian marine biodiversity [more]