F-ECTS project





Feed-Backs of estuarine circulation and transport of sediments on phytobenthos

General Information: Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is widely recognised as a practice necessary for the sustainable use of coastal resources. Central to CZM is the recognition that in order to promote sustainability, coastal resources cannot be sectorially managed and the interactions that occur between adjacent sectors have to be fully considered. This is referred as an 'holistic' management approach.

Many complex interactions occur between and within the different biological species in coastal ecosystems and their respective habitats. The ability of phytobenthic communities to locally modify the environmental characteristics of the ecosystem in which they live is one of the more significant relationships related to the human interactions.

In fact, complicated feed-back and feed-forward loops exist, that couple the establishment of phytobenthic communities, water quality and physical oceanographic parameters. Accurate understanding of these interdependancies will represent a significant improving of the environmental management capabilities, particularly allowing a reliable foreseeing of the evolution of phytobenthic ecosystems and their reactions to man-generated disturbances.

F-ECTS main focus is the interdisciplinary investigation of the ecosystem loops in estuarine environments involving phytobentos communities, hydrodynamics, nutrient cycling and sediment transport, with the aim of integrating some of the aspects already investigated in the INTRMUD and BENFLUX Mast Projects and in the ROBUST Environment project.

The Lagoon of Venice (Italy) will be considered as a pilot case study. Two major seasonal field campaigns will be carried out and will allow the parameterization of the main physical and biological processes of the ecosystem providing a specific background for the assessment of the exportability of the obtained results in other two different european estuarine ecosystems:

* Laguna della Ria Formosa (Portugal)
* Roskilde Fjord (Denmark).

Based on the parameterized biophysical interactions, the modeling activities within F-ECTS will enable the set up of linked modules for the simulation of the feed-back loop between the physical processes and the phytobenthic habitat. This loop controlling the survival and evolution of an estuarine ecosystem will be considered from the biological perspective. To accomplish this, biological, hydrodynamic and sediment transport processes will be modelled together in F-ECTS. In particular a new SPM-phytobenthos-reaction model for cohesive sediment and estuarine ecosystems will be developed and used as a common module to which different hydrodynamic models tailored for each specific case study site can be coupled.

To demonstrate how the joint exploitation of the field measurements and the model outputs provide support to the production of new "environmental information" on the estuarine territories, GlS-based tools will be developed and implemented in the context of the pilot case study in a way that such new tools can be easily exported to other sites.

These tools are expected to support the decision makers in identifying and planning CZM actions such as the ones related to wetland conservation and restoration, fishing, dredging and port operations.

Venice Lagoon

The lagoon of Venice is a large (approximate area is 550 km2 ), shallow coastal lagoon located along the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy. The lagoon originated nearly 6000 years ago when rising sea level flooded the upper Adriatic Wurmian Paleoplain. Two barrier islands separate the lagoon from the sea and water is exchanged through three large inlets.

Most of the lagoon area is occupied by a central waterbody (about 400 km2 ), which is partly vegetated by macroalgae and seagrasses. The mean depth of the lagoon is 1.1 m and the tide range is 0.6 to 1 m, thus extensive mud flats are exposed at low tide.

Intertidal saltmarshes exist, especially in the southwestern and northeastern portions of the lagoon. The marshes are considered very important in Europe due to their high productivity and habitat value. The area of the salt marsh has however been reduced due to reclamation, erosion, pollution, and natural and human-induced subsidence.

The sediment dynamics of the lagoon have altered, with a net export of sediments out of the lagoon. This has been caused by the altering of river courses away from the lagoon, the construction of jetties which restrict the movement of marine sediments into the lagoon, and the effects of sediment erosion, (Day et al, 1998).


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