INBO Research Challenges

Towards healthy ecosystems

INBO investigates the long-term functioning and health of ecosystems in Flanders to improve our understanding of their status and changes. We gain more insights in ecosystem water and nutrient balances. What comes in? What goes out? What remains in the system? We study the complex and dynamic interactions in ecosystems to predict the impact of external disturbances. This allows us to propose actions to maintain and restore nature in Flanders.

Integrated ecosystem research is an essential component within the systems approach that INBO is increasingly adopting. In today's Flanders, ecosystem research requires an integrated, interdisciplinary and societal approach. We call this a ‘whole systems approach’. After all, there is a continuous interaction between our ecosystems and society.

We strive for healthy ecosystems in Flanders. To evaluate the state of health, we need to understand ecosystem functioning in addition to describing the abiotics and diversity of flora, fauna and habitats. We do this by gaining insight in water, energy and mass balances and interactions between species and their changes over time. We investigate and monitor this over the long term in sites located in fragile ecosystems.

In practice, this means that INBO will increasingly concentrate its long-term observations on a limited number of well selected sites where all ecosystem components (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, biosphere and sociosphere) are measured in the same place. This is the only way we can gain insight in the relationships and interactions and impact of external perturbations. We do this through study of water and nutrient balances. What enters the system? What disappears? What is present? And how do these balances change over time? Understanding these interactions is essential to support policy recommendations and propose sustainable measures to improve ecosystem health.

By "what is present?" we refer to water and nutrients, as well as species and their communities. It includes, for example, vegetation composition, characterisation of soil biodiversity, etc.

We aim to test our results on a broader scale. To this end, we cooperate with other scientific institutions, monitoring bodies and universities, at national and international level. For data collection, we work according to internationally agreed harmonised methods which enable us to compare research results and frame our results in a wider international context.


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