Deep sea

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.  

Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology

The Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology, led by professors Janssen, Goethals and De Schamphelaere, focusses both on fundamental and applied aspects of aquatic ecotoxicology and ecological risk assessment. Main research topics include the effects (at different levels of biological organization in both marine and freshwater environments) and the presence and availability of environmental contaminants in general and of metals, endocrine disruptors, natural toxins and persistent chemicals in particular.



The laboratory is composed of various sub-groups studying:

  1. The bioavailability and effects of metals in freshwater and marine ecosystems (sediment and water); 
  2. Acclimation (epigenetics), adaptation and micro-evolutionary consequences of stressors on aquatic organisms (both anthropogenic contaminants and global change stressors such as toxic algae);
  3. The presence and ecological effects of existing and new chemicals in the marine environment (endocrine disruptors, persistent substances, pharmaceutical substances) using new techniques (e.g. passive samplers);
  4. Development and validation of ecosystem models for the evaluation of indirect and direct effects of environmental contaminants and other stressors on the aquatic environment. 

Renard Centre of Marine Geology

The Renard Centre of Marine Geology, led by professors De Batist and Van Rooij, develops seismic technologies for high-resolution geological investigations in marine environments, including applications for deep-water ROV exploration. Acoustical technologies for advanced sea-floor mapping are also developed and applied. They furthermore focus on geodynamics, seismic- and sequence-stratigraphy and palaeoceanography of continental margins on a global scale. Other research topics are the occurrence and stability of methane hydrates, estimation of methane fluxes, cold seeps, mud volcanoes, deep-water coral habitats, the sustainable use of natural resources and the evaluation of toxic dump sites.