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MERCOAST - Impact of mercury on the dynamics of estuarine communities in a coastal lagoon (Ria de Aveiro, Portugal). Their socio- economics implications.
Coordinator - Dra. Patrícia Cardoso
CESAM Responsible researcher - Maria Eduarda Pereira
Programme - PTDC/MAR/101906/2008
Execution dates - 2010-01-01 - 2012-12-31 (36 Months)
Funding Entity - FCT
Funding for CESAM - 34.402 €
Total Funding - 145.373 €
Proponent Institution - IMAR - Instituto do Mar
Participating Institutions
Universidade de Aveiro


For some decades, an Atlantic Ocean lagoon (Ria de Aveiro, Portugal) has been under severe ecological stress, mainly caused by mercury loading resulting from a chlor-alkali industry. As a result several tons of mercury were released and deposited in the sediments. Although, the impact of mercury pollution has been reported elsewhere, studies concerning the effect of high mercury loading on the structure and dynamics of macrobenthic and planktonic communities, as well as on the growth of primary producers (salt marsh plants) have never been reported in the literature. To complement this field information, some mesocosm experiments will be performed at those three different trophic levels. Studies concerning plant diversity and vegetation succession due to allogenic changes, namely from human activity, have been conducted essentially in constructed wetlands and a few in natural wetlands. Considering that estuaries, especially salt marshes and seagrass beds, are very productive ecosystems and recognized as nursery areas for several estuarine/marine species, most of them with high economic interest (e.g clams – Scrobicularia plana, cockles – Cerastoderma edule, crustaceans, fishes), it would be crucial to assess the impact of mercury loading on the population dynamics (i.e. community structure, life span, growth rates, breeding periods) of such species. During their larval stages, all fish consume zooplankton and some adult fish continue to be at least partly planktivorous. It also appears that temporary members of the marine plankton (“meroplankton”, e.g. species that are part of the seabed community for only part of their life cycle) such as larvae of decapods, bivalves, gastropods, might also be affected by the mercury loading, compromising the life success of their adult forms. Therefore, it becomes, also, imperative to study the effect of mercury pollution on the zooplankton community structure and species diversity and evaluate their socio-economic implications.




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