Environmental quality has important cascading effects across the whole trophic foodweb of an ecosystem. Marine Animal Ecology focusses on setting biological and ecological baselines and monitoring water quality. Monitoring environmental quality will contribute to a better understanding of ecosystems and will give early warnings when baselines are shifting.
Environmental quality and seafood safety in the Yangtze estuary
The Yangtze delta estuary is heavily polluted due to industrial development. A current project is studying a diversity of toxic compounds and their effects on benthic ecosystem services including seafood safety and whole ecosystem stability. A risk assesessment will be performed.
In order to manage water quality, effective methods need to be developed to adequately assess pollutants. A current project is wokring on developing a method to concentrate and chemically analze low concentrations of hydrophilic contaminants. The aim is to make visible these often unseen, unmeasured and unknown contaminants that can still have very severe effects such as genotoxicity and endocrine disruption. A bioassay will be developed to quantify the potency of hydrophilic compounds termed the 'HyGenChip'.
Although there is a shift towards cleaner and greener energy, still the demand for oil is rising. Drilling for oil and shipping the oil will lead to seepage of oil into the environment. Marine Animal Ecology is working on the effects of oil spills in the Arctic and in the Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in 2010. In cleaning up oil spills, surface dispersants are usually sued. Another project is looking into the effect of such dispersants on the marine ecosystem.
In order to make shipping more energy efficient and sustainable, GASDRIVE is working on powering ships with liquid natural gas (LNG). They will also emit carbon dioxide as bubbles along the ship's hull to reduce drag. A current project is working on determining local effects on environmental quality of this technique.
Techniques used & Implications
To monitor environmental quality, Marine Animal Ecology uses a combination of field, mesocosm and lab experiments. If we know baselines of environmental quality we can better respond to shifts to baselines. This will allow us to conserve ecosystems better and increase climate resilience.