MAE: Ecosystem conservation

In the end, all work that is being done at Marine Animal Ecology is towards a better conservation of marine ecosystems. Well-preserved ecosystems will hopefully have increased resistance and resilience for climate change. Some specific examples where Marine Animal Ecology is working towards ecosystem conservation include the following projects.

Cetacean conservation in Indonesia

Cetaceans are top predators in the marine foodweb, and as such are important indicators of a healthy marine environment. This project is working on mapping out cetacean migration patterns from historical and current data to fill knowledge gaps in cetacean occurrence in the Indo-Pacific. Knowing where cetaceans occur and uncovering their habitat preference will improve Marine Spatial Planning and allow us to better design Marine Protected Areas.

Reintroducing European sturgeon

The European sturgeon, a living fossil growing up to 5 meters is on the brink of extinction in the wild. Reintroduction efforts are on the way in introducing this species in Europe's rivers, including the Rhine. This project will tag sturgeons and track their outmigration routes. Furthermore, the cooperation potential of commercial fishermen will be assessed.

1917, bycatch in commercial salmon fisheries in the Rhine river delta of a large adult European sturgeon.
1917, bycatch in commercial salmon fisheries in the Rhine river delta of a large adult European sturgeon.

Connectivity and resilience of Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas are designed to give relief to marine ecosystems and allow them to recover from for instance fishing activities. In the Bird's Head Seascape in Indonesia, a network of MPAs is established. However, there is a lack of fundamental insights into ecology, hydrology and connectivity of these protected areas. A soon to start project aims to fill these knowledge gaps in order to ensure effectiveness of protected areas.

Conservation of jellyfish lakes in Indonesia

Jellyfish lakes are landlocked bodies of seawater filled with immense populations of the golden jellyfish Mastigias papua. Worldwide, only a handful of these jellyfish lakes are known, and as such they are becoming more and more popular tourist destinations. However, since the lakes are small, tourists can have big effects on the populations, for instance through the introduction of sunscreen pollution. This project focusses on monitoring the effects of tourism on jellyfish populations.

Golden jellyfish Mastigias papua in a marine lake. Photo: Dr. L. Becking.
Golden jellyfish Mastigias papua in a marine lake. Photo: Dr. L. Becking.

Sea turtle conservation

This project aims to fill gaps in baseline knowledge on green and hawksbill turtles in the Dutch Caribbean. They use an integrated combination of molecular tools, satellite tracking, isotope analysis and habitat mapping to better conserve fragile turtle populations.

Green turtle in the Dutch Caribbean. Photo: Dr. L. Becking.
Green turtle in the Dutch Caribbean. Photo: Dr. L. Becking.

Techniques used & Implications

To conserve ecosystems, Marine Animal Ecology performs field monitoring and field, mesocosm and laboratory studies. We use molecular tools, study ecophysiology and examine population dynamics. Conserving ecosystems will help them attain climate resilience.