Quality status benthic habitats Dutch North Sea

Example of H1110b – photo O.G. Bos.

The Ecoauthor report on the quality status and developments of benthic habitats and MSFD-areas of the Dutch North Sea is now available. The report presents the results of the application of the Benthic Indicator Species Index (BISI) on the 2015 monitoring data (considered the T0 as various measures of the Dutch Action plan Marine Strategy were just or still had to be implemented in 2015) and compares the quality status with the recent historic developments.

Some of the most important findings are:

– A stagnation and recent decline in the benthic habitat quality of offshore areas like the Frisian Front and Central Oystergrounds after years of improvement. This might be the result of a gradual movement of (seafloor disturbing) fisheries from the coastal zone to the offshore regions as suggested by results of specific BISI analyses (focussed on specific indicator species for seafloor disturbance) and the possible first improvements as observed in coastal areas.
– The permanent large impact of amongst others nutrients and pollutants (summarized as ecological disturbance) on benthic habitat quality, especially in the coastal zone, but also extending to further offshore areas like the Doggersbank. Although ecological disturbance is the most important pressure in the area of the Doggersbank, the observed decrease in benthic quality during the last two decades seems to be the result of increasing seafloor disturbance.

The study was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) in consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW), and executed in cooperation with Wageningen Marine Research (WMR).

The entire report can be downloaded from here (at the moment only in Dutch, but an English translation is foreseen).

Wijnhoven, S. (2018). T0 beoordeling kwaliteitstoestand NCP op basis van de Benthische Indicator Soorten Index (BISI). Toestand en ontwikkelingen van benthische habitats en KRM gebieden op de Noordzee in en voorafgaand aan 2015. Rapport Ecoauthor & Wageningen Marine Research. Ecoauthor Report Series 2018 – 01, Heinkenszand, the
Netherlands.

Annex 1 ‘KRM factsheet D6C3 Benthische habitats kwaliteit (BISI)‘ is available from here.

Platform Marine Monitoring

At May the 22nd I had the opportunity to provide insight in the benthos monitoring programme for the Dutch North Sea at the ‘Exchange day Platform Marine Monitoring 2018’). I gave a presentation focussing on the potential differences in results when making choices in monitoring and evaluation methodologies. Besides I could also present and discuss some of the findings for recent developments in the quality status of sea floor habitats of specific areas in the Dutch North Sea. For those who were there, or others that are interested now; you can find the slides of the presentation here (Sorry, they are in Dutch). All presentations are available from the website of ‘Informatiehuis Marien’.

Lecture on non-indigenous species in estuaries

Today I had the opportunity to talk about our research findings on non-indigenous species in estuarine environments and the Western Scheldt in particular, during a guest lecture in the course ‘Marine Biology’ of the University College Roosevelt. For those interested the slides can be found here:  Guest lecture UCR 110418 . Information is largely based on our Transect Monitoring reports (2016-01, 2017-04 coming available soon) and the Overview reporting on exotic species monitoring in the Western Scheldt (2017-01).

Ciliate communities on macrofauna: There is a world to discover.

First description of epizoic ciliates on Bathyporeia including undescribed species.

Hardly visible with the naked eye, flourishing communities of epibiont species are often present on macrofauna. Examining Bathyporeia (small crustaceans of few millimeters in size, abundantly present in marine and estuarine waters) from Dutch waters showed that peritrich ciliates were present on 44% of the over 3500 specimens investigated. Although known for a range of other species including crustaceans, peritrich ciliates on Bathyporeia, when present also often abundantly present, were not described in detail before. Only d’Udekem d’Acoz (2004) mentions the common presence of ramified colonies of peritrich ciliates on appendages of Bathyporeia in his paper on the genus.

We discovered several types including solitary and colony-forming specimens, of which the most common species appeared to be Zoothamnium nanum (an epibiont species known from other small crustaceans like Gamarus species). However, also a likely sofar undescribed species of the genus Epistylis appeared to be common, and another type of Zoothamnium (that might be an undescribed species) was observed.

Findings on infestation patterns for different Bathyporeia species for different waterbodies and years and possible implications for basibionts (hosts) and epibionts are presented and discussed in a paper published in Crustaceana: Wijnhoven et al. (2018). Taking into account the common presence and large abundances on a variety of macrofauna species, indicates that epizoic ciliates might play a more important role in ecosystem functioning than is now recognized and/or understood. There is still a whole world to discover!

Photographs of peritrich ciliates on Bathyporeia sp.; a) Typical colonies of peritrich ciliates (most likely Zoothamnium nanum) attached to a peduncle of an antenna from Bathyporeia pilosa (specimen stained with Rose Bengal and preserved in formaldehyde) (1000x magnification); b) Typical colonies of peritrich ciliates (most likely Zoothamnium nanum) in detail (on a specimen stained with Rose Bengal and preserved in formaldehyde) (4000x magnification); c) Individual and small colonies of alive Zoothamnium sp. on peduncles from antenna 2 of an alive specimen of Bathyporeia sarsi (1000x magnification); d) A singular alive specimen of Zoothamnium nanum on Bathyporeia sarsi (4000x magnification) with its cilia out; e) Singular alive peritrich ciliates on Bathyporeia pilosa (4000x magnification) showing a specimen without a spasmoneme (Epistylis sp.); f) Singular and couples of peritrich ciliates on Bathyporeia pilosa (4000x magnification) where the lower specimen belonging to the genus Zoothamnium lacks transverse folds (Zoothamnium sp.).

Wijnhoven, S., Zwiep, K.L., Hummel, H. (2018). First description of epizoic ciliates (Sessilida Stein, 1933) on Bathyporeia Lindström, 1855 (Peracarida, Amphipoda) and infestation patterns in brackish and marine waters. Crustaceana 91(2),133-152.

Other study cited:

d’Udekem d’Acoz, C. (2004). The genus Bathyporeia Lindström, 1855, in western Europe (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Pontoporeiidae). Zool. Verh. Leiden 348, 3-162.

Benthic Indicator Species Index to evaluate quality status North Sea

To evaluate habitat quality, sea floor integrity and ecological functioning of the Dutch North Sea the Benthic Indicator Species Index (BISI) has been developed. The BISI is specifically developed to deliver to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) reporting, evaluate the effectivity of management measures and provide information for Habitat Directive-habitat evaluations. The BISI compares temporal patterns (absence/presence, or densities) of combinations of specific indicator species with predefined reference levels of these species that represent a good status. BISI can be used at different spatial scales (e.g. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Natura 2000 areas, specific ecotopes and habitats) and additionally provides evidence for possible causes and effects of observed patterns in quality status (developments).

The BISI is developed by Ecoauthor in cooperation with Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) commissioned by the Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs (EZ) and of Infrastructure and Environment (IenM)).

The BISI is potentially applicable in other regions than the Dutch North Sea as well. At present Ecoauthor is amongst others working on the T2015 evaluation of the Dutch North Sea on basis of BISI and the adjustment of BISI for wider application.

The indicator is presented in:

Wijnhoven, S. & Bos, O.G. (2017). Benthische Indicator Soorten Index (BISI): Ontwikkelingsproces en beschrijving van de Nationale Benthos Indicator Noordzee inclusief protocol voor toepassing. Ecoauthor Report Series 2017-02, Heinkenszand, the Netherlands (in Dutch).

or

Wijnhoven, S. & Bos, O.G. (2017). Benthic Indicator Species Index (BISI): Development process and description of the National Benthos Indicator North Sea including a protocol for application. Ecoauthor Report Series 2017-02, Heinkenszand, the Netherlands (in English).

With a protocol of application (written in English):

Wijnhoven, S. (2017a). Protocol Benthic Indicator Species Index (BISI). Annex 1 of Wijnhoven & Bos (2017).

And an assessment tool (in English):

Wijnhoven, S. (2017b) Assessment tool ‘Benthic Indicator Species Index (BISI)’ v260917. Excel-file with specification of the indicator for the areas of the Dutch EEZ to be evaluated and application for the situation in 2015 (T0). Appendix 2 of Wijnhoven & Bos (2017).

Attention for Ecoauthor work in Newsletter ‘Informatiehuis Marien’

Since several months we are developing a Benthos-based Indicator system for the evaluation of the Dutch North Sea for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ) and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&M). The evaluation tool will specifically be used to report on the quality developments towards the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and evaluation of management regulations (i.e. fisheries restrictions) in Natura 2000 areas and other areas of special interest. The latest newsletter of the Marine Information and Data Centre (Informatiehuis Marien) has some attention for our work: ‘Measuring with benthic macrofauna‘. (The article is in Dutch).ihm-article

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Developing the Benthos Indicator for the Dutch North Sea

At present Ecoauthor is working on the development of the National Benthos Indicator for evaluation of the Dutch North Sea for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in cooperation with Wageningen Marine Research. designing-a-national-benthos-indicatorThe challenge is to develop a transparant indicator that will be used for various evaluations and reportings (e.g. MSFD, Habitat Directive, evaluation of Nature 2000 management and evaluation of effectivity of taken measures) that can act on the various spatial and temporal scales involved and will be indicative for causes of potentially observed changes as well. Yesterday we had some good discussions and valuable information exchange during an expert workshop as organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ) and the Ministry of Infrastucture and the Environment (I&M) for which I like to thank all participants and the organizers.

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Geographic patterns of biodiversity in European coastal marine benthos

Trends with latitude are primarily indirect and so can be overcome by local variation of environmental factors.

This is the conclusion of a recent study investigating geographic patterns in European coastal marine macrobenthic communities, based on a pan-European harmonized monitoring by EMBOS partners (European Marine Biodiversity Observatory System). Latitudinal trends and regional differences in diversity and densities appear to be merely the result of particular sets and ranges of environmental factors and location characteristics specific to certain areas. The diversity and densities of benthos were mostly positively correlated with environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, mud and organic matter content in sediment, or wave height, and related with location characteristics such as system type (lagoons, estuaries, open coast) or stratum (intertidal, subtidal).

The study with ‘Ecoauthor involvement‘ is published online in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK and available since september 14th, 2016. You can contact me for more information by using the contact form.

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Lugworm burrows in the Oosterschelde

Lugworm burrows in the Oosterschelde

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