Maritime law, policy & management

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.  

Maritime Institute

The Maritime Institute, led by the professors Somers, Maes and Cliquet is a research group with its roots in the Faculty of Law. Main focus of research is law of the sea, international and European environmental law and biodiversity law, sustainable management of the North sea, marine protected areas, marine spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management. Within the sphere of environmental law particular attention is paid to pollution of oceans and seas by shipping, marine nature protection, fresh water law and climate change law. Research is often multidisciplinary by working together with other research groups of Ghent University (marine biology, bio-engineering, marine geographers, environmental economists) or other European research groups. The Maritime Institute is also partner in the Centre for Environmental and Energy Law of Ghent University.


The Members of the Maritime Institute have, within their field of expertise, a long lasting lecturing experience at Master and at Master after Master level in various faculties of Ghent University (law, political sciences, sciences, bioscience engineering) and at other Belgian Universities (Free University Brussels & University of Antwerp). The Maritime Institute is organizer of the Master in Maritime Sciences since 1985 and the Permanent Training in Port Management since 2001. From 1996 on the Maritime Institute organizes yearly a thematic Maritime Symposium. 


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.