Floating fen ecosystems under threat of salinization (MSc project)

Beginning:      Spring 2018
Duration:        20 – 30 weeks, unpaid
Credits:            30 – 45 ECTS

Background

Future climatic scenarios point to a threat of salinization in protected Dutch floating fen ecosystems. This is mainly caused by an increased upward seepage of saline groundwater and an increased inflow of saline surface water. The term floating fen already reveals that the root mat of this ecosystem floats on top of that surface water. In The Netherlands you find them for instance in old turf extraction sites. Here plants grew horizontally into turf ponds, meaning that they are usually still attached to the non-floating baulks. This leads to a zonation in species composition and water quality from the root mat edge into a system that is characterized more by fen meadow plant species. Both these plant communities are mainly made up of salt sensitive plant species, some of which are even red-listed. So we want to understand what the relationship is between surface water salt concentrations and plant response. Do we actually find an increase or built up of salts in the rhizosphere? And how do plant species respond to that? Or, what happens if plant species tap directly into brackish surface water?

Project

During this project you can join the field campaign that is planned for Spring 2018. Of the intended field locations we for instance already know that Nieuwkoopse Plassen is still fresh (<300 mgCl/L), while Botshol is reaching brackish levels (500 – 1300 mgCl/L). Since the areas you will visit are protected, you are not allowed to perform highly destructive measurements or manipulative experiments. But, you are free to record vegetation characteristics and connect that to water and soil parameters to better understand the effect of surface water on the floating fen plant community.

Requirements

Knowledge of Dutch flora and vegetation mapping is required.

Contact information

Milou Huizinga is a PhD student working on salinization of natural floating fen plant communities in the Netherlands. During her PhD project she is supervised by Prof. Dr. Ing. Flip Witte and Prof. Dr. Rien Aerts.

If this topic appeals to you, please email m2.huizinga@vu.nl.

Faculty of Science, VU Amsterdam.
Dept. of Ecological Science, subdept. Systems Ecology, room A-159.
Address: De Boelelaan 1085, 1081HV Amsterdam
URL: https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/milou-huizinga