The Belgian Register of Marine Species (BeRMS) is an authoritative taxonomic list of species occurring in the Belgian part of the North Sea, adjacent estuaries, salt marshes, mud-flats and coastal dunes. more
Although Belgium is the smallest North Sea country with the shortest coastline (± 67 kilometers) and a continental shelf of 3.457 km2, it has a long history of marine research in which scientists try to understand its diversity and complexity.
A first step towards understanding is to obtain an idea of the species diversity within this area, in other words, to establish an inventory of the local marine species.
In 2010, the Flanders Marine Institute undertook efforts to compile a species list for the Belgian marine waters. Information was extracted from already existing initiatives (e.g. TISBE, see further) and a new literature search was started to further complete the Belgian marine list. Additionally, a number of databases containing Belgian marine distribution data were searched for relevant information (Integrated Marine Environmental Readings and Samples, IMERS & the European Ocean Biogeographic Information System, EurOBIS).
The literature search however showed that not all distribution records were trustworthy, leading to the fact that - solely based on literature - there would probably be an overestimation of the number of species present in the Belgian part of the North Sea.
This conclusion lead to an additional quality check, where a whole range of field experts were asked to help verify the geographical spread of all species listed as 'present in the Belgian part of the North Sea' based on literature and to list additions or specific comments such as 'extinct in Belgian marine waters', 'vagrant', ... All this additional information is available in the database. A list of all contributing experts on geographical spread can be consulted here.
For some species groups, research is very limited within Belgium, leading to geographically unverified species. For these groups, the species list is solely based on literature.
The taxonomical content of BeRMS is controlled by the taxonomic experts of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), not by database managers. These taxonomic experts are responsible for the quality and content of the different taxonomic groups and ultimately decide whether a species name is valid or not.
This Register only contains the names of species currently or historically occurring in the Belgian part of the North Sea. So far (September 2010), only species occurring in the marine environment up till (but not including) the coastal dune front.
Future efforts will be undertaken to list all know species of the coastal zone, including the salt marshes, mud flats, dunes and the adjacent brackish areas.
Since 2000, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) compiles distribution information on species from the Southern Bight of the North Sea into a single database: the Taxonomic Information System for the Belgian coastal area - TISBE. TISBE tried to develop a comprehensive list of all species recorded for the Belgian coast, the Southern Bight of the North Sea and its surrounding countries.
Despite the availability of a general list for the Southern Bight, there was a growing demand for a species list only containing species present in the Belgian part of the North Sea. In 2010, this general request led to the development of BeRMS, the Belgian Register of Marine Species, which was primarily based on TISBE and extended with additional literature data and validations by experts.
Comments from our users are very much welcomed. So if you come across incorrect or incomplete information, or if you are willing to contribute to this initiative, please contact Leen Vandepitte or Wim Decock.
New updates will be added to the online version of the database and will thus become readily available on the website. An update of the paper version of this list will happen on a less regular basis.
A list of 'known issues' on the Belgian Register of Marine Species is available online. This way, users will be aware of the existing difficulties and how they are or will be dealt with in the future.
BeRMS: Belgian Register of Marine & Coastal Species
Based on this dataset:
Vandepitte, L. et al. (Ed.) (2010). Belgian Register of Marine Species, compiled and validated by the VLIZ Belgian Marine Species Consortium. VLIZ Special Publication, 46. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. ISBN 978-90-812900-8-1. 78 pp.
(2010). Online inventaris van leven in Belgische Noordzee. Natuur.Focus 9(4): 179