The global decline in biodiversity is currently recognised as one of the major challenges of mankind (UN-CBD, OJ L309). In Europe, the preservation of biodiversity has obtained legal basis for community action in policy documents COM(1998)0042, 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC. One of the highest priorities recognised at the Johannesburg World Summit was the improvement of the quality of surface waters. Many shallow waters are already protected by, for instance, the Ramsar Convention and the EU Bird Directive (79/409/EEC). The EU has moreover taken a new ambitious course in water policy towards ecologically orientated, sustainable management of water bodies by enacting the new legislation: the ‘Water Framework Directive (WFD)’: Member States shall protect, enhance and restore all bodies of surface water with the aim of achieving good surface water status within 15 years (WFD Article 4). Similar engagements can be found in the Agenda 21 (various chapters) and in the Belgian Federal plan for sustainable development.
Objectives and Methodology
Aim 1: Assessment of extant patterns of biodiversity and of ecosystem and trophic structure in pools and small lakes.
Methodology: Extant biodiversity in small inland water bodies across Belgium will be assessed at genotype, taxon and ecosystem levels. Genetic diversity of flagship species (Amphibia, ‘Cladocera’, Anostraca) will reflect survival chances of isolated populations. Taxon diversity of a range of model groups will provide a reliable measure of total taxon richness. Such an analysis of ecosystem architecture will reflect robustness (ecosystem resilience) and will provide indications on efficiency of ecosystem functioning.
Aim 2: Development of cost-effective methods for reliable monitoring of biodiversity, in order to reflect ecosystem health in small water bodies.
Methodology: The database established under objective 1 will be analysed to determine the minimal matrix of biotic and abiotic variables necessary to act as a reliable sentinel system, signalling actual or pending changes in water quality and biodiversity.
Aim 3: Assessment of natural dynamic processes (colonisation, egg bank recruitment) leading to extant biodiversity patterns in small water bodies.
Methodology: Both colonisation processes in newly dug ponds and relevance of egg bank dynamics (storage and recruitment effects) will be determined in laboratory and field experiments and will provide a measure for resilience of such water bodies.
Aim 4: Assessment of mutual interactions between extant aquatic ecosystems in small water bodies and sectorial activities (nutrient levels and biodiversity, effects of pollution levels on biodiversity, parasite loads in pools).
Methodology: A whole range of environmental variables will be quantified to complement the descriptive typology of the studied pollutants and ponds. Structural features and classical physical and chemical variables will be measured together with more detailed analyses of nutrient and pollutant levels. In addition, pools will be screened for incidence of trematode parasitic infestation of both intermediate and final hosts. The latter is of prime importance for confident use of these natural water bodies for agricultural activities.
Aim 5: Formulation of an integrated management strategy for aquatic ecosystems that reconciles their ecological importance with other functions.
Methodology: MANSCAPE will provide the scientific data which will assist decision makers in optimising management strategies towards conservation of biodiversity at the local (specific ponds) as well as at the landscape level. Recommendations on optimal monitoring strategies for water quality and biodiversity levels in ponds will contribute to evaluate programs for the integration of different uses of ponds in agricultural landscapes.
Interaction between the different partners
The network consists of 5 financed partners, 5 subcontractors and 6 end users. The 14 work packages are divided over the partners and subcontractors, while the end-users initially assist with background information and advice. All partners are complementary in their expertises, but will collaborate in a synergetic way. All partners will participate in the initial screening of the habitats for biotic diversity and abiotic variables. RBINSc and KULeuven will provide the core field team, with UG and FUNDP providing auxiliary assistance in particular areas. Water chemistry is dealt with by FUNDP, UG and RBINSc. Parasite screening is done by ULg, material for this is provided by RBINSc. Molecular analyses are done at RBINSc and KULeuven. KULeuven will coordinate the integrated database and analysis.
Link with international programmes
MANSCAPE completes the lower end of the size-spectrum of aquatic habitats investigated by the EU-funded program BIOMAN, which was coordinated by KULeuven and in which also UG participated. With regard to sampling strategy, MANSCAPE builds on the experience gained by BIOMAN and thus shortens its pilot fase. While BIOMAN was necessarily a European-wide network, the approach taken by MANSCAPE justifies its execution at the federal Belgian level.
Expected results and/or products
23 deliverables of MANSCAPE have been identified. These include large, integrated and publicly accessible databases on ecosystem architecture and their components in relation to the constituents animals and plant groups. These databases will lead to the development of a typological assessment method for these aquatic habitats, which will, by GIS analysis, provide indirect assessments of landscape integrity. These approaches will lead to a policy document, describing guidelines for integrated and sustainable management of small water bodies in Belgium. Such management planning will integrate sustainable use by different parties. Sectorial activities, in case agriculture, will benefit from knowledge on parasite distribution and use of typological methods to assess vulnerable areas. Conservation planning will be assisted through a better understanding of internal and external dynamics of biodiversity, the latter taking into account connectivity of habitats.
Scientific results will be published in high level journals and be presented at conferences; applicable results will be presented at meetings to interested parties, via the website which will also have links to the publicly available databases. Policy documents will be disseminated to decision makers.
RBINSc coordinates the project, participates in the main part of the fieldwork (with KULeuven) and takes charge of the zoo benthos, the genetic component of the amphibian research and the water chemistry. Through subcontractors, amphian and macrophyte distribution are monitored. RBINSc will take part in the integrated data analyses and will coordinate the drafting of the policy documents.
KULeuven participates in the main part of the fieldwork (with RBINSc), and takes part of the zooplankton (internal and external dynamics, genetic and taxioc diversity). KULeuven will also coordinate the integrated database and will take part in the integrated data analyses. Subcontractors will assist with GIS analysis.
UG monitors phytoplankton and bacterial diversity, will provide help in auxiliary sampling programs and will take part in data analysis.
FUNDP deals with water quality assessment (both through direct measurements and through exotoxicological experiments) and will provide distributional data on fish. FUNDP will provide help in auxiliary sampling.
ULg provides data on parasite screening and will actively participate in the drafting the section on agricultural sustainable use of small water bodies. Through the nature of the research, ULg will form an important link between research and end users from the agricultural sector.
SPSD II, PODO II, PADD II, EV29, agricultural landscapes, aquatic ecology, biodiversity, colonization, genetic diversity, livestock parasites, resting egg banks, small water bodies