Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Relation between traits of intertidal organisms and ecosystem services

Intertidal landscapes are a harsh environment for both plants and animals. These organisms have to withstand tidal flow, wind, waves, anoxic soil conditions, flooding/drought-cycles, and many more stresses. Despite these harsh environmental conditions, a wide range of organisms (plants, algae and benthic animals) inhabit the tidal landscapes, each with their own specific adaptations that enable it to survive. Some of the organisms are even able to modify their physical environment via their structures or activities, which is often referred to as ecosystem engineering. Although the importance of ecosystem engineering for providing ecosystem services is well recognized, the underlying mechanisms explaining how it works are still poorly understood, as it requires an interdisciplinary approach.

We aim to understand which organism traits are most important for i) the ecosystem resilience and long-term survival, ii) their ecosystem engineering effect on the intertidal landscape development and iii) ultimately the ecosystem services they provide (carbon storage, coastal protection and biodiversity).

To answer this question, we combine field and laboratory studies, using state of the art techniques, including (wave) flumes, instruments to manipulate and measure mechanical properties of the organisms, various chemical analyses, and many other techniques.

Within this research theme we offer several topics, each with the opportunity to tune it towards your specific interest. The possible topics will however strongly depend on the timing of the research.


For further information and to apply, please contact Prof. Dr. Tjeerd Bouma (