The project will be articulated in 7 work packages (WPs; overall rationale see scheme at the bottom of the page).
Field and laboratory experiments (WP1, 2, 3 & 4) in combination with inverse modelling (WP5) will allow assessing how microbial biodiversity is related to tidal flat C cycling and which organisms and functional groups are involved. Two field experiments (WP1) will provide a detailed description and quantification of the relation between microbial, meio- and macrobenthic taxonomic and functional diversity on the one hand and C fluxes on the other in contrasting tidal flat sediments, and this at high taxonomic and functional resolution. The laboratory experiments (WP2, 3 & 4) will enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these BEF relations, and are specifically aimed at addressing important knowledge gaps in tidal flat C cycling. Special attention will be paid to two highly relevant ecosystem services which are directly and indirectly related to the tidal flat C cycle, viz. sediment stabilization and commercial shellfish (oyster) production (obj. 4). As in the two field sites BMA and meiobenthos are dominated by benthic diatoms and nematodes respectively, the experiments in WP2, 3 & 4 will focus on these organisms. The WP1, 2, 3 & 4 data will feed into inverse models (WP5). Comparing the results of the two field campaigns, the mechanistic BEF insights obtained in WP2, 3 & 4 and the inverse models of WP5 will allow identifying general and emergent patterns in tidal flat BEF relations and will help addressing potential contextual variation in these patterns. This information will be crucial for evaluating to what degree our results can be extrapolated to the scale of whole tidal flat ecosystems using RS approaches (WP6).