Objectives and goals
Following two previous EC funded projects on the functionning of European salt marsh ecosystems ("Comparative Studies on Salt Marsh Processes" - EV4V-0172-F(EDB) and "The Effect of Environmental Change on European Salt Marshes" - EV5V-CT92-0098), the overall objective of the EUROSSAM project is to develop a policy and management tool for the conservation and restoration of salt marshes.
In particular, the project will aim at :
The improvement and testing of a range of ecological processes and hydrodynamic models to predict the likely responses of various salt marsh ecosystems to environmental changes such as potential impacts of predicted rise of sea level or human activities on the functionning of salt marshes and on the fluxes of various nutrients between the salt marshes and the marine coastal waters,
The calibration of the process models to specific conditions encountered in various European salt marshes,
The project identifies four goals :
To investigate and model salt marshes in regard to the interactions between sedimentation or accretion and plants. This study intends to develop a typology of pioneer salt marshes which will take into account population processes, genetic aspects of plant colonisation in pioneer littoral zones and the geomorphology of those wetlands. Models will be constructed which allow to predict the behaviour of salt marsh ecosystems subject to environmental changes. For example, to predict the effects of a potential rise in sea level on plant communities and/or organic matter production (PART 1).
To develop a robust ecological model of processes taking place inside salt marshes and mudflats, including organic matter production and nutrient cycling within and between the vegetation and sediment compartments. The ecological salt marsh model will be developed in such a way that it will be easy to run different modules for each process. This will render the model a strong research tool and make it flexible enough to using it in different geographically or functionally different marshes. The modelling objectives will be complemented by specific process studies needed to calibrate the model (PART 2 and 3).
To investigate the colonisation of mudflats and salt marshes by wildlife fauna and the integration of organic matter from these ecosystems in food webs. The study of animal communities, their involvement in food webs and in organic matter fluxes will provide supplementary information to the general understanding of the global functioning of coastal hydrosystems (PART 4).
To develop hydrodynamic models at 3 different scales : at the salt marsh, at the bay and at the estuary scale. In order to support the prediction of the functioning of the bay, the morphological dynamics of the salt marsh and the distribution of plant and animal communities will be investigated (PART 5).