Macrobenthos of soft sediments
Organisms living in the sediments play an important role in the nutrient cycles in the North Sea; they form an important link to the higher trophic levels up to fishes and they also affect the geomorphology of the seabed. At NIOZ we study the interactions of macrobenthos with the biogeochemistry and geomorphology and their importance for the food webs. We do this by documenting macrofaunal abundances in the North Sea and linking that with biogeochemical and geomorphological measurements.
We perform perturbation experiments that relate to fisheries or sand extraction. 'The exclusion of bottom fisheries in windfarms will restore seabed integrity and benthic biodiversity. Investigation of fauna and sediment will provide understanding of the cascade of eco-system changes and potential benefits of man-made structures and Marine Protected Areas.'
NIOZ actively studies the restoration of reef forming species, both on soft substrates and around artificial structures like e.g. windfarms. Reef forming species have major impact on their environment by modifying the physical environment and enhancing biodiversity. Restoration requires in depth knowledge of both the ecology of target organisms and on the availability and suitability of settling substrates. We use this kind of knowledge to design management measures and restoration schemes that create 'Windows of Opportunity' for these ecosystem engineering species.