Estuarine ecosystems provide products and services to humankind. Most well-known are of course fish and shellfish. But estuarine ecosystems also remove nutrients and waste productions from the water, and provide safety by buffering waves. With our research, we study the many ways that humans benefit from estuaries.
Building safety with coastal vegetation
There is a mounting body of evidence that estuarine vegetation can help us defend our coast. Plants attenuate the waves that threaten our dikes, both with their leaves and stems, but also because of the elevated foreshore they build. And because coastal vegetation typically traps sediment, they can keep up with sea level, making their defence value sustainable. We aim to provide the key-knowledge as needed to translate the idea to practice.
Providing the ever-increasing human population with sustainable food and energy is an enormous challenge. Agricultural lands are over-exploited, freshwater is becoming scarce, the energy transition requires alternatives to fossil fuels. Humanity is turning to the oceans and seas in its search for future food and energy. In the Seaweed Centre we are investigating the various possibilities for future use.
Offshore wind farms
Offshore wind farms and oil platforms can provide a substrate for benthic animals. The high biomass of organisms that colonise these artificial reefs are in turn attractive for fish and birds. The fauna that attach to human-made structures will affect the deposition of organic matter to the bottom, changing the benthic communities. We study how these systems change the functioning of the water column and the sediment in their vicinity.
Digital Lab Facility
To understand how coastal ecosystems are affected by climate change, and to forecast how they will change and adapt, it is essential to collect environmental data and to integrate these into mathematical models. We use a range of techniques to collect large amounts of data with modern technology. Processing these datasets and integrating them in mathematical, physical and visual models is the core business of the digital lab facility (DigiLab).