The European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EEC) (WFD) aims to achieve good ecological and chemical water quality by the year 2015. This project focuses on a scientific evaluation of the benthos quality element for Belgian coastal waters (within 1 nautical mile). Belgian coastal waters are under immense anthropogenic pressure, which could prevent us from achieving a sound ecological condition of benthos by the year 2015. If the WFD objective is not met, it may be possible to obtain a 6 or 12-year extension (2021, 2027).
There is also the option of lowering the environmental objective.
An application for an extension of the term or lowering of the environmental objective - and the reasons for this – are to be discussed at the first Scheldt River Basin Management Plan in 2009.
Therefore the project shall produce a scientifically-founded evaluation of the ecological condition likely to be reached over the three set periods (2015, 2021, 2027) for ground invertebrates (benthos) in Belgian coastal waters, based on the measures provisionally planned for the regions involved. To achieve these objectives, three important research questions will be covered.
1. Evaluation of current measures taken by the regions and countries involved under the WFD in relation to districts in the Scheldt river basin. Will these affect the ecological condition of benthos in Belgian coastal waters?
2. Collection of the scientific information required to support predictions of the ecological quality condition of benthos. Summary of the current ecological quality condition (2007) and reference conditions
- Current state of knowledge as regards the modelling of the relationship between
environmental variables (sedimentology, nutrients, oxygen concentrations, organic material) and macrobenthos trends (diversity, density, biomass).
- Linking of benthic parameters to the condition variables or fluxes and in the MIRO/ RIVERSTHRALER model (in collaboration with the ULB/Prof Dr Lancelot).
- Long-term trend analysis of benthos parameters
3. Evaluation of how the ecological condition of the benthos will evolve in future (2015, 2021, 2027). Is there any need for extra measures or should the environmental objectives be lowered?
It should be possible, on the basis of the information collected, to say something about the ecological condition which will be achieved over the three set periods (2015, 2021, 2027), although, in all likelihood it will not be possible to put figures to the benthic parameters. If necessary, these shall include a list of extra measures as well as any lowered environmental objectives. To provide a detailed, overall picture, a meeting of benthos experts will be held in the fifth month of this project. The results will be published in a report.