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The Belgian Continental Shelf (BCS) (surface : 2017 km²) is only 0.5 % of the North Sea surface, but it has a very high diversity in marine habitats and associated biological communities. Also, the socio-economic importance of the BCS is very high. As in most areas around the North Sea, a lot of anthropogenic activities, such as sea fisheries, maritime transport, military shootings, dredging activities and others occur on the BCS.
The combination of the ecological and the socio-economic value of the BCS causes conflicts between both interests. Therefore it is very important to develop a sustainable management plan for the natural resources of the BCS. To obtain this goal, information and knowledge is required about:
- geographical distribution of the marine biological communities,
- the structure of these communities,
- their relationship with the physical and the chemical environment,
- the natural ecological and genetic variability, and
- the nature and the effect of the anthropogenic influences on these ecosystem components.
Macrobenthic organisms are good candidates for monitoring the short and long-term effects of natural and anthropogenic impacts on and within the marine environment because of their direct link with the sediment and with the processes that occur immediately above the sediments.
The global objective of this project is to deliver a substantial contribution to the knowledge of the long term variability in the biodiversity of the macrobenthos and the relationship with anthropogenic activities.
The specific aim of this website is to deliver an atlas with distribution maps of the macrobenthos of the Belgian Coastal Shelf (BCS) for the periods 1977-1983 and 1994-2000. Besides biogeographic and taxonomy information, which is given for each taxon, descriptive details on morphology, biology, ecology, habitat preferences and illustrations are given for a limited number a taxa (see list below). Eventually, by continuing monitoring programmes, our knowledge of different effects of antropogenic activities on the macrobenthos will aid in the development of a sustainable management plan for the Belgian Coastal Shelf.