Climate & climate change

Protistology and Aquatic Ecology Laboratory

The Protistology and Aquatic Ecology Laboratory, led by professors Vyverman and Sabbe, has been involved in research topics on the functioning and evolution of marine ecosystems, focusing on autotrophic unicellular eukaryotes, called protists. They aim to have a better understanding of the consequences of climate and environmental changes on protist communities, in combination with additional influence of dispersal. Besides community-level approaches, studies at the population and organismal level are also performed. To this end, they focus on dispersal and selection in model species of microalgae, as well as on life- and cell-cycles, evolution and diversity of diatoms. Other research topics include the evolution of mating systems, sexual behavior, reproductive barriers between closely related species and cryptic variation. More applied research focusses at the metabolic regulation of microalgae, interactions between algae and pathogens, and the exploitation of algae biodiversity to contribute to culturing algae in marine biotechnology.

Department of Mobility and Spatial Planning

The Department of Mobility and Spatial Planning, led by professor Allaert, focusses on four main topics, which are spatial economics and management, spatial planning and design, sustainable mobility, and integrated water management and spatial environmental management. They perform fundamental, applied, strategic and policymaking research. Their marine research focuses on investigating climate change and integrated water management, they are involved in the WaterCAP project, focusing on the effects of climate change on the hydrological cycle, and in the CLIMAR project, where they aim to make an evaluation of climate change impacts and adaptation responses for marine activities.  

Research Unit Palaeontology

The Research Unit Palaeontology, led by professor Louwye, studies the biogeography, biostratigraphy, palaeoecology, and the evolution of several fossil organisms such as dinoflagellate cysts. They aim to amongst others, validate proxies for climate change and study organic-walled phytoplankton from marine Neogene and Quaternary deposits from the North Sea basin, Atlantic and Pacific realm. They furthermore focus on the Quaternary palaeontology and palaeoecology of latest Pleistocene and early Holocene non-marine deposits from northern Sandy Flanders. 

Marine Biology Research Group

The Marine Biology Research Group, led by professors Vincx, Vanreusel and Moens, has a proven expertise in ecological and systematic research of marine benthic ecosystems worldwide with a focus on the study of patterns and processes of benthic biodiversity (from bacteria, Archaea, nematodes, copepods, polychaetes, bivalves, crustaceans, demersal fish,...). Benthic communities are analysed in relation to environmental changes by means of field sampling or by controlled lab and field experiments. The obtained data allow to quantify the functional responses of benthic organisms to e.g. temperature rises, ocean acidification, eutrophication, food quantity and quality, invasive species, trawling, windmills, coastal defence structures,… Furthermore, the obtained biodiversity patterns and individual responses of species are analysed in the context of ecosystem functioning, with a strong interaction between the biota, the environmental factors (both pelagic phase and seafloor) and the biogeochemical processes. The Marine Biology Research group generated long-term databases on the distribution of benthic communities that are relevant for marine conservation and management. Study sites: world-wide ranging from the intertidal and subtidal areas of the North Sea, intertidal mudflats along the Westerschelde estuary, tropical seagrass beds and mangrove forests, natural CO2 seepage sites to more extreme ecosystems like the deep sea, continental margins and polar regions.  

Groundwater modelling Group

The Groundwater modelling Group, led by professor Lebbe, studies the movement and quality of groundwater, as well as the interaction between groundwater and the sediments. Specific coastal research topics include the propagation of the tides, water quality in the Belgian part of the North Sea, management of groundwater extraction, warmth transport in the coastal region, and the impact of climate change on the hydrology of the coastal region.