Modelling benthos-mediated biogeochemical cycling in estuarine environments
Macrobenthos plays a fundamental role in estuarine ecosystem dynamics. It is not only important food resource in benthic and pelagic food chains, but also good indicator of biotic integrity which is able to reflect the ongoing changes in the estuarine ecosystem. The study site, which measures 160km from the mouth near Vlissingen (The Netherlands) to Gent (Belgium) , Schelde estuary, has been put forward as an area that is under permanent stress due to a high load of urban, industrial and agricultural waste. So this study aims to develop better predictions of future changes to the estuarine system, which is a prerequisite for improving conservation and management strategies.
A combined field, mesocosm and modeling approach will be applied to quantify the linkages between biogeochemical and suspension matter cycling, and macrobenthos functional role. A non-linear quantile regression model will be proposed for predicting spatio-temporal patterns of macrobenthic species, by the extended use of spline transformations in the multi-quantile regression. The functional importance of macrobenthos for biogeochemical cycling will further be explored by quantifying the faunal contribution to the exchange of nutrients and oxygen between the sediment and the water column. Statistical models will be developed from the measured data of bioturbation and bio-irrigation in the laboratory, together with the environmental variables. Ultimately the enhanced species distribution model and the calibrated biogeochemical model will be coupled. Integration of these models will allow the prediction of organic matter cycling, suspended matter and nutrient dynamics under future scenarios of hydro-morphological change.