The MOCHA (Mud Origin, Characterisation and Human Activities) project is part of the research on “Global Change, Ecosystems and Biodiversity” of the Second Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD II) with a priority towards “Evaluation of new methodologies and technologies for studies of sediment transport” as well as “Definition of a zero-point reference framework for the marine ecosystem in the North Sea”.
- Project Description
The MOCHA project is focusing on the cohesive sediment transport system occurring on the Belgian continental shelf (BCS). The presence of mud fields and high turbidity in such an energetic environment has been the subject of various studies, the origin of the mud in the area remains however still controversial. The project aims therefore at presenting evaluation tools and strategies in order to study the different sources of mud. Mud is transported by natural processes, but also human activities (dregding and dumping) have an influence, the project is therefore structured around two entities:
1. Investigating the contribution of the different possible sources of mud by collecting and critically analysing existing data, by carrying out sediment transport measurements and by analyzing sediment strength, erosion behaviour, clay mineral associations, microfossils, geochemical and geological characteristics.
2. Influence of human activities is investigated by determining how dredging and dumping operations and harbour constructions have changed the cohesive sediment transport system.
Accurate knowledge of the cohesive sediment distribution and transport system and the different sources is especially important because of its effect on economy (dredging and dumping), environment and for setting up a framework of sustainable management of the North Sea. The project will supply information that is part of the general and permanent duties of monitoring and evaluation of the effects of all human activities on the marine ecosystem to which Belgium is committed following the OSPAR-convention (1992). The construction and extension of the Zeebrugge harbour and its connections to the open sea have created these efficient sedimentation places and have thus changed the natural system. Harbour extensions, deepening of navigation channels and other large scale projects (windmill farms) will continue in the future and thus the choice of efficient dumping sites with a low environmental impact is an essential part of sustainable management. It needs also emphasis that the second goal – the determination of the human impact – will lead to the definition of the zero-point reference framework of the fine grained sediment system, a situation of strongly reduced human influence. Knowledge of this reference framework is needed for the the North Sea “Quality Status Report” an objective of the OSPAR “Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme”.
The project relies on the expertise of researchers with different backgrounds (geology, mineralogy, sedimentology, engineering, numerical modelling) to collect, measure and analyse all relevant data. It is important to underline that the project aims at understanding the transport system on a regional, i.e. Belgian scale. In these the MOCHA project is coupled with and can rely on the ongoing SPSD II - MAREBASSE project, which is focussing on specific local areas.