Third annual meeting of our BRAIN project | 4DEMON

4 decades of Belgian marine monitoring

uplifting historical data to today's needs


The Belgian scientific community has, in the last four decades, built up considerable expertise in marine sciences (see Compendium Coast and Sea). Numerous scientific expeditions at sea have resulted in a vast quantity of scientific data related to different topics and important publications in the scientific literature about the marine environment of the Belgian Continental Shelf. Many valuable, historic data however still remain inaccessible to the larger scientific community, being available only on paper in various institutions. These sources are essential for understanding long-term changes in the quality of the marine environment. The 4DEMON project aims to centralise, integrate and valorise data on contamination, eutrophication and ocean acidification compiled during expeditions in the BCS over the last four decades, forming an important Belgian scientific heritage.

In the first phase of the project an extensive data inventory will be created and relevant historic data and metadata will be searched for in archives and digitized when needed.
Continuous remote sensing chlorophyll a and turbidity data sets will aid the data interpretation and intercalibration as they have a much higher spatial and temporal resolution.
1000-points map: Map of 1970-1976 sampling grid.
Van Mechelen: Old Cruise summary reports provide useful sampling information.


Third annual meeting of our BRAIN project

Added on 04 May 2017
On 27 March 2017, the third annual meeting of the BRAIN project ‘4Decades of Belgian Marine Monitoring: uplifting historical data to today’s needs’ (4DEMON) took place in the offices of BELSPO where the progresses of the topics were presented to the follow-up committee. The deadline is extended until June 2018. At this stage, most data have been gathered, intercalibrations are almost finalized and models and statistical methods are being applied on the datasets.


§ The data management team is now developing the central data portal, where all data stored in different databases (ie. at BMDC and VLIZ), will be made publicly accessible. This is a pilot for both data centers.

§ Contaminants in biota and sediment (ILVO and BMDC)

The average of Fe and Al values will be used for normalization on sediment fraction. Principal Component Analyses and Spatial clustering analyses on normalized data show that Cd and Hg concentrations are linked and behave more closely to PCBs than to others heavy metals.

§ Eutrophication: Remote Sensing (REMSEM and MUMM)

Spatial patterns of Chl a variability in the Belgian waters (BCZ) result in seven classes, which look directly linked to the bathymetry and other physical parameters (eg. fronts). First results show the influence of nutrient input from the Scheldt and Atlantic waters, maximum turbidity, nutrients and chl a concentrations close to the coast, higher Chl a concentrations with higher turbidity in the BCZ, and earlier starting of the Chl a bloom in the west and later in the north-east.

§ Phytoplankton dynamics and species composition (UGent and VLIZ)

The General Additive Mixed Modelling method is applied to study the spatiotemporal evolution of diatom and dinoflagellate abundances in two periods (1970-1978 and 1995-2011), which finally result in four separate models.

§ Ocean acidification (ULg and BMDC)

There is a clear relation between pH and eutrophication, ocean acidification (increase CO2 in air), S-N atmospheric deposition and oligotrophication. The compiled datasets of pH show the seasonal dynamics of high pH in summer versus low pH in winter. Plotted time trends indicate a link to the stop of land-input of phosphates in the end of the ‘80s. An overall decrease in methane concentrations, salinity, temperature and wind speed is observed in the BCZ. It should be studied whether this is related to long-term climate changes.

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