1. to assess (differences in the level of) benthic species diversity in different European coastal and estuarine systems and relate to environmental factors (tides, salinity, type of substratum, phanerogams)
2. to identify and distinguish dominant (group of) species and their presumable trophic relations
3. to delineate and quantify the transfers between trophic compartments in the system. This will include the feeding preferences of the main species and the estimation of trophic biodiversity, the effect of competition on resource partitioning and the impact of food preferences on the structuring of the system.
4. to build a model of the flows of carbon and nitrogen for the system as a whole and for selected subsystems where they can be reliably discriminated. The model will allow simulations of system function under defined organic matter regimes.
5. to compile a holistic description of the standing stocks and fluxes of the major communities and species in the system
6. to obtain processing rates for the prominent species in the system. Size-specific process models will be derived for consumption (C), assimilation (A) and faeces (F). For the prominent species, rates-that are missing- will be measured experimentally, and for the remainder the rates will be estimated from the process models and literature.
7. to gather and store all results in a central database and make them available to researchers, students, managers and the public at large through reports, papers and a website
Description of work
Task 1. Description of the structure and diversity of benthic communities in different European coastal systems.
Task 2. Identification of the dominant (group of) species and their potential trophic relations.
Task 3. Relations between benthic species diversity and main environmental factors.
Task 4. Determination of isotopic composition of different ecosystem components to assess food partitioning and selectivity.
Task 5. Evaluation of the N isotopic fractionation due to trophic transfers, and its relation to the sources stechiometry (estimation of the Relative Trophic Level of the main species).
Task 6. Modelling the flows of carbon and nitrogen in the food webs.
Task 7. Calculation of the system metrics (including those for sub-systems and simulations) for stability, resistance and resilience by network analysis, which will also provide indices on system function for comparison with other coastal systems.
Task 8. Modelling the structure and functioning of systems, using network analysis.
Task 9. Production of results that will be published in reports and in scientific journals and made available through the internet, at a website of the leading institute.
Task 10.Organising a database available at a web page which will present information of the outline and objectives of the project, different participants and their roles in the project. It will regularly be updated producing the progress and highlighting new findings.