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Leaching of metals from steel slag and their ecological eEffects on a mMarine ecosystem : validating field data with mesocosm observations
Steel slag is being used worldwide for a variety of applications, among which underwater dyke reinforcement. In this study the leaching and bioaccumulation of 18 inorganic compounds from Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) steel slag, was monitored in marine experimental ecosystems (mesocosms) for 12 weeks. Triplicated mesocosms were installed at two refreshment rates, one reflecting the situation in the Oosterschelde estuary where BOF steel slag was applied, the other at a 35 times lower rate. Vanadium in both water and biota turned out to be the best tracer for the presence of BOF steel slag in the mesocosms. The mesocosm data helped to interpret the results of a 4 year field sampling program in the Oosterschelde estuary where no elevated levels of vanadium in water or biota were found near locations where steel slag was applied. Also no ecological impact could be established in the field, which was in line with the observations in the mesocosms. This study shows the added value of a tailor made mesocosm study for realistic risk assessment, and provides support for applying this tool as a basis for designing efficient field monitoring programs.
Online-coupling of widely-ranged timescales to model coral reef development
The increasing pressure on Earth’s ecosystems due to climate change is becoming more and more evident and the impacts of climate change are especially visible on coral reefs. Understanding how climate change interacts with the physical environment of reefs to impact coral growth and reef development is critically important to predicting the persistence of reefs into the future. In this study, a biophysical model was developed including four environmental factors in a feedback loop with the coral’s biology: (1) light; (2) hydrodynamics; (3) temperature; and (4) pH. The submodels are online coupled, i.e. regularly exchanging information and feedbacks while the model runs. This ensures computational efficiency despite the widely-ranged timescales. The composed biophysical model provides a significant step forward in understanding the processes that modulate the evolution of coral reefs, as it is the first construction of a model in which the hydrodynamics are included in the feedback loop.
Beyond connecting the dots : a multi-scale, multi-resolution approach to marine habitat mapping
Conflicts of interests between economic and nature conservation stakeholders are increasingly common in coastal seas, inducing a growing need for evidence-based marine spatial planning. This requires accurate, high-resolution habitat maps showing the spatial distribution of benthic assemblages and enabling intersections of habitats and anthropogenic activities. However, such detailed maps are often not available because relevant biological data are scarce or poorly integrated. Instead, physiotope maps, solely based on abiotic variables, are now often used in marine spatial planning. Here, we investigated how pointwise, relatively sparse biological data can be integrated with gridded, high-resolution environmental data into informative habitat maps, using the intensively used southern North Sea as a case-study. We first conducted hierarchical clustering to identify discrete biological assemblages for three faunal groups: demersal fish, epifauna, and endobenthos. Using Random Forest models with high-resolution abiotic predictors, we then interpolated the distribution of these assemblages to high resolution grids. Finally, we quantified different anthropogenic pressures for each habitat. Habitat maps comprised a different number of habitats between faunal groups (6, 13, and 10 for demersal fish, epifauna, and endobenthos respectively) but showed similar spatial patterns for each group. Several of these ‘fauna-inclusive’ habitats resembled physiotopes, but substantial differences were also observed, especially when few (6; demersal fish) or most (13; epifauna) physiotopes were delineated. Demersal fishing and offshore wind farms (OWFs) were clearly associated with specific habitats, resulting in unequal anthropogenic pressure between different habitats. Natura-2000 areas were not specifically associated with demersal fishing, but OWFs were situated mostly inside these protected areas. We thus conclude that habitat maps derived from biological datasets that cover relevant faunal groups should be included more in ecology-inclusive marine spatial planning, instead of only using physiotope maps based on abiotic variables. This allows better balancing of nature conservation and socio-economic interests in continental shelf seas.
Dilemmas in developing models for long-term drought risk management : the case of the National Water Model of the Netherlands
Strategic decision-making on long-term drought risk management can be supported by integrated assessment models to explore uncertain future conditions and potential policy actions. Such models have to meet many -sometimes conflicting- requirements posed by policy-makers, model developers, and stakeholders. This paper discusses the case of the National Water Model (NWM) that is applied for national policy-making on drought risk management in the Netherlands. The case demonstrates that the chosen assembled model set-up (in which several existing models are combined) is cost-effective and increases stakeholder acceptance, but also leads to high model complexity and computation time. To be effective for policy-making, integrated assessment models need to produce relevant model outcomes that are accepted by stakeholders, within acceptable time and cost limits. For this, the model set-up must support simulations at different aggregation levels (allowing both detailed analysis and exploratory analysis of many scenario/strategy combinations) while maintaining internal consistency.
Passive sampling and benchmarking to rank HOC levels in the aquatic environment
The identification and prioritisation of water bodies presenting elevated levels of anthropogenic chemicals is a key aspect of environmental monitoring programmes. Albeit this is challenging owing to geographical scales, choice of indicator aquatic species used for chemical monitoring, and inherent need for an understanding of contaminant fate and distribution in the environment. Here, we propose an innovative methodology for identifying and ranking water bodies according to their levels of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) in water. This is based on a unique passive sampling dataset acquired over a 10-year period with silicone rubber exposures in surface water bodies across Europe. We show with these data that, far from point sources of contamination, levels of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and pentachlorobenzene (PeCB) in water approach equilibrium with atmospheric concentrations near the air/water surface. This results in a relatively constant ratio of their concentrations in the water phase. This, in turn, allows us to (i) identify sites of contamination with either of the two chemicals when the HCB/PeCB ratio deviates from theory and (ii) define benchmark levels of other HOCs in surface water against those of HCB and/or PeCB. For two polychlorinated biphenyls (congener 28 and 52) used as model chemicals, differences in contamination levels between the more contaminated and pristine sites are wider than differences in HCB and PeCB concentrations endorsing the benchmarking procedure.
Remote sensing-based automatic detection of shoreline position : a case study in Apulia Region
Remote sensing and satellite imagery have become commonplace in efforts to monitor and model various biological and physical characteristics of the Earth. The land/water interface is a continually evolving landscape of high scientific and societal interest, making the mapping and monitoring thereof particularly important. This paper aims at describing a new automated method of shoreline position detection through the utilization of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images derived from European Space Agency satellites, specifically the operational SENTINEL Series. The resultant delineated shorelines are validated against those derived from video monitoring systems and in situ monitoring; a mean distance of 1 and a maximum of 3.5 pixels is found.
Are litter, plastic and microplastic quantities increasing in the ocean?
Whilst both plastic production and inputs at sea have increased since the 1950s, several modelling studies predict a further increase in the coming years in these respective quantities. We compiled scientific literature on trends in marine litter, consisting largely of plastic and microplastics in the ocean, understanding that monitoring programs or assessments for these aspects are varied, frequently focusing on limited components of the marine environment in different locations, and covering a wide spectrum of marine litter types, with limited standardization. Here we discuss how trends in the amounts of litter in the marine environment can be compared with the information provided by models. Increasing amounts of plastic are found in some regions, especially in remote areas, but many repeated surveys and monitoring efforts have failed to demonstrate any consistent real temporal trend. An observed steady state situation of plastic quantities in many marine compartments and the fate and transport of plastic in the marine environment remain areas for much needed further research.
Toxicity characterization of surface sediments from a Mediterranean coastal lagoon
The occurrence of bioactive compounds and contaminant-associated effects was assessed by means of in vivo and in vitro assays using different extractable fractions of surface sediments from a contaminated coastal lagoon (Mar Menor, SE Spain). Sediment elutriates and clean seawater, previously exposed to whole sediment, were used for assessing the in vivo toxicity on embryo development of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. Agonist and antagonist activities relating to estrogen and androgen receptors and agonist activities on aryl hydrocarbon receptor (expressed as ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activities) were investigated in sediment extracts by using HER-Luc, AR-EcoScreenTM and fibroblast-like RTG-2 cell lines. Embryotoxicity effects were greater for sediment elutriates than those incubated in sediment-water interphase, implying that diffusion of bioactive chemicals can occur from sediments to sea water column, favoured by sediment disturbance events. In vitro results show the occurrence in extracts of compounds with estrogen antagonism, androgen antagonism and dioxin-like activities. Multidimensional scaling analysis classified the sampling sites into four sub-clusters according to their chemical-physical and biological similarities, relating in vitro bioactivity with the total organic carbon and known organic chemical load, with particular reference to total sum of PAHs, PCB 180, p,p-DDE and terbuthylazine. Overall, results pointed to the presence of unknown or unanalyzed biologically-active compounds in the sediments, mostly associated with the extracted polar fraction of the Mar Menor lagoon sediments. Our findings provide relevant information to be considered for the environmental management of contaminated coastal lagoons.
Modelling of thermal stratification and ice dynamics with application to Lake Teletskoye, Altai Republic, Russia
Numerical modelling of ice growth and transport of matter in lakes, estuaries, or coastal seas can provide crucial input for improving the environment. In this paper, the goal is to model the thermal stratification and ice dynamics in Lake Teletskoye, which is located in the Altai republic of Russia. Lake Teletskoye is a deep lake with a maximum depth of 325 m. The Delft3D modelling suite is applied for simulation of the temperature stratification and the ice formation in Lake Teletskoye, which is the first Delft3D application of ice melt and growth in a deep lake. Modelling deep lakes requires a special approach for the computation of the density. In Delft3D the UNESCO equation is applied, which is less suitable for deep lakes. Therefore, Delft3D has been extended with the TEOS-10 and the Chen-Millero density formulas, which yield accurate model results for Lake Teletskoye.
Towards network assessment of permanent railway track deformation
The permanent railway track deformation caused by regular train traffic is important for infrastructure managers and railway contractors, as it determines the railway track quality. Although several successful approaches have been made to address the topic of the permanent railway track deformation, these have only been applied at specific locations, and have not yet been successfully applied at a network level. This paper presents a methodology that can be applied at the network level, by making use of a stochastic subsoil model to characterise the subsoil uncertainty and variability along the railway line, and by combining it with a dynamic train-track model and a cumulative cyclic deformation model. This methodology is illustrated by analysing a railway track section of 9 km in the Netherlands. The effects of the train service, such as train speed and axle loads, on the permanent deformation of the track are quantified. The proposed methodology has been partially validated against results of the dynamic stiffness obtained during the passage of a measurement train. The results illustrate the added value of this methodology for infrastructure managers and railway contractors as it allows for the quantification, at network level, of the consequences of train service changes for the future state of the railway network.