AquaEcology offers a broad spectrum of services for all kinds of water types, such as ponds, lakes, becks, rivers, coastal waters and the open sea. These services are based on many years of experience in research and project work and comprise comprehensive analyses of various parameters and restoration measures for bathing waters and lakes as well as web-based data management and programming.
Analysis of waters
Biological, chemical and physical parameters in the aquatic ecosystem
AquaEcology has got a broad range of parameters for exhaustive investigation of waters: For assessment tools, biological components play an important role. We offer analyses of plankton
By chemical analysis, ecologically relevant inorganic and organic substances are determined with high accuracy. Different analytical devices and methods are employed, such as AutoAnalyzer, high-temperature catalytic combustion systems as well as gas (GC) and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).
Physical and physico-chemical parameters such as temperature, salinity, oxygen content, pH, fluorescence are analysed with special in-situ probes and external instruments.
Concept, sampling, measurement and evaluation
On the basis of many years of experience and of published survey strategies, AquaEcology offers cost-effective concepts and alternatives for measurements, according to the respective research objective. This includes land-based samplings as well as research cruises or mesocosm experiments. Prognostic models help to understand developments and processes within the ecosystem. A selected choice of respective analytical techniques is offered. Evaluation and graphical analysis follow statistic standard procedures in the required complexity.
AquaEcology works in accordance with current national and international standards (DIN, CEN) and procedures, and provides the customer with all necessary information on the used methods and on the quality assurance measures for the analytical systems. All relevant activities, from sampling and measurement to scientific evaluation, are carried out by qualified personnel from AquaEcology.
The Flow Cytometry is an analytical method, which is widely used in the medical field and also increasingly being adapted to the biological field. With the Flow Cytometry, single cells such as bacteria, yeast, algae and protozoa can be analysed at high sampling rates in liquid media.
During the analytical process, the cells will pass high-energy light beams with different wave lengths (laser). According to the cell size and granularity, the light will be differently scattered and recorded by the detector.
Moreover, important information can be obtained from existing autofluorescence or from cell compartments such as nucleic acids, lipids et al., stained with specific fluorescent dyes.
AquaEcology is employing the most recent versions of the Flow Cytometry devices and is working only with highly-qualified personnel - also directly at the sampling location if required. Through this, the high-precision results can instantly be used as a basis for decision-making with respect to possible measures and actions.
Flow Cytometry can be applied in the fields of quality assurance and monitoring, research and assessment as well as in the process optimisation. For many applications, this analytical method is much faster, more cost-effective and more precise than the commonly established procedures.
In detail, the Flow Cytometry is offering the following analytical applications:
Quality assurance and monitoring
For many compartments of the aquatic environment, fast and precise analyses of organisms such as phytoplankton, bacteria and pathogens are required. These requests can easily be met by the Flow Cytometry for a broad variety of parameters - by yielding quick and highly-precise measurements.
Research and assessment
Via particle sizes, staining techniques and fluorescent markers, the Flow Cytometry offers various possibilities to analyse organism groups as well as organic molecules such as lipids. Consequently, the method can be well employed in the ecosystemic basic research.
Especially with regard to the numerous national and international marine assessment systems, a lot of interesting applications for the Flow Cytometry are existing.
Due to the capability of fast and precisely counting microorganisms, also very specifically, the Flow Cytometry is very suitable for process analyses in various applied systems.
Please, just contact us and tell us about your requirements and problems. We will be glad to set up an individual concept for sampling and analysis for you.
Parallel to the development and mass usage of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) within the DNA analysis, costs have dropped and at the same time, the scope of potential and specific applications has broadened. Consequently, it is possible to determine gene sequences being very specific for certain organisms and thus, to acquire additional taxonomic data and information on aquatic organisms such as plankton, macrozoobenthos, and fishes.
In a close co-operation with a qualified scientific partner AquaEcology now offers a comprehensive and detailed determination of aquatic organisms using DNA analyses. In particular, we recommend three application methods: DNA Barcoding Metabarcoding eDNA Analyses All three methods allow a fast and reliable determination of organisms and organism groups in water.
They are described as follows:
DNA barcoding is the identification of organisms based on the Sanger sequencing of a defined gene fragment ('barcoding fragment'). For this purpose, the DNA will be isolated and the barcoding fragment multiplied by PCR. The sequenced PCR product will be compared to sequences from a reference database. If the match has a probability > 98 % then the sampled species can be assigned to a known species of the database.
DNA metabarcoding allows the genetic analysis of bulk samples representing a mix of different organisms. This includes water samples of plankton and macrozoobenthos. The sample is homogenized and analyzed using high-throughput parallel sequencing. Sequences are then computer-processed to obtain the species composition of the mixed sample.
eDNA analysis is a new tool to determine species by non-invasive sampling. This procedure is useful for rare or endagered species as well as for species in proteced areas. The term eDNA refers to all traces of genetic material left by organisms in their own environment through the release of faeces, urine, gametes, mucus, etc. A broad range of molecular methods (qPCR, Sanger and High Throughput Sequencing) can be used to recover and analyze this eDNA, and, for instance, reveal the composition of species in a water sample even if the targeted species are not present at the sampling site any longer.
Please, just contact us. We will provide you with an individual concept for sampling and analysis according to your taxonomic requests.
Assessment of aquatic impacts
General ecosystem analysis
Based on recent data from surveys, on historical data and on data from ecosystem modelling, AquaEcology compiles functional analyses of aquatic systems. These analyses are mandatory for the detection of effects of perturbations within the highly complex food web and for the respective assessment.
In experimental series, ecotoxicological impacts of chemical compounds on different aquatic organisms are investigated and evaluated; these investigation are also an integral part of the cumulative effects analyses as required by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).
Specific and international procedures
In cases of urgent problems, object-specific assessment and internationally established procedures are offered. The former comprises a small selection of parameters, while the latter are specified according to international guidelines (European Water Framework Directive - WFD, OSPAR guidelines). Within this frame, also external data can be included and be evaluated separately.
Environmental impact statements
In the frame of environmental impact analyses, biological or hydrochemical expert's reports for replacement activities, for new constructions or for changes in wastewater discharges are compiled. Of course, the whole process will be professionally accompanied by AquaEcology.
Consulting and projecting
AquaEcology offers consulting and management for bigger projects. This includes the preparation of a consulting concept, the realisation of the planning and organisation of the logistics as well as conducting all the procedures inclusive of the necessary measurements. Particular application ranges are the restoration of waters, scientific research projects and mesocosm experiments as well as ballast water treatment and aquaculture management.
Projecting of restoration and protection measures
Many natural waters lost their original ecological balance due to eutrophication or contamination with pollutants. As a consequence, massive algae blooms occur, very often also containing harmful and toxic blue-green algae and even leading to killings of microorganisms, benthic animals and fishes. AquaEcology develops concepts for restoration and protection measures, also including alternative technical possibilities. By conducting pilot studies, the expected effects can be tested and then be simulated by modelling.
Effect-oriented time and cost schedules for water body restoration
Alternative concepts for water body restoration are specifically adapted to the problem and to the type of water body, considering the optimal cost-benefit analysis and the time target. At the same time, collateral public relation measures in the form of seminars, lectures, flyers and brochures can be conducted.
AquaEcology has a supportive part in interdisciplinary and international research projects, also within the frame of contract research. Extensive mesocosm experiments can be planned and carried out, in order to trace biogeochemical processes in different water bodies. Analytical concepts for testing ballast water according to IMO guidelines are prepared and realised. Another project field is the monitoring and optimisation of aquaculture systems.
As collateral measures in the scientific projecting, the institute offers professional teachings in the field of aquatic ecology; this could be done in the form of seminars, workshops, excursions and practical courses.
Restoration and protection
Based on the elaborate concept and the planning, AquaEcology puts the measures into practice, also in co-operation with other specialists when appropriate. According to the water body type and to the severity of the problem, aeration with oxygen or removal of sediments is carried out. In order to achieve an insoluble binding or an effective removal of problem substances from the water column or the sediment, certain precipitants or binding agents can be applied. As long-term measures for removal of nutrients, construction of reed bed systems close to the banks are offered.
Analysis, monitoring, evaluation and training
In order to ensure medium and long-term effects of the restoration and protection measures, they are monitored by specified analyses and evaluated in terms of effectiveness. Within this context, project-assigned personnel can be trained for the long-lasting monitoring and service work. By all this, the measures can be supervised, from soliciting a quotation to the concomitant analysis and the final acceptance.
Data management und software
Data storage and documentation
All the data from analyses and measures as well as external environmental data can be stored user-friendly and interactively in databases and be processed for specific requests. Analyses and assessments are documented following accredited procedures. Furthermore, AquaEcology offers scientific statistical and graphical evaluation of existing data sets.
Databases and server hosting
AquaEcology offers the development of user-friendly, web based database systems such as taxonomic image databases for all kinds of organism groups. The underlying system is the new software biodivDP which is individually adapted and implemented for each application. A prominent example is the internationally established taxonomic phytoplankton database Plankton*Net, which effectively contributes to the field of biodiversity research. The development and implementation of this database was funded by financial means from the BIS Bremerhavener Gesellschaft für Investitionsförderung und Stadtentwicklung mbH as well as from the European Union.
For an optimisation of the data management, AquaEcology has got further services in its tender, such as server hosting for databases, data maintenance and the development of special tools for administration, transfer, presentation and evaluation of data.
Development of software
AquaEcology develops various software tools for the application in biological scientific information systems and databases. This includes the newly developed web-based counting programm OrgaCount, which is currently implemented for entering phytoplankton, zooplankton and macrozoobenthos counts, but can also be used for any other organism group or countable item.
List of Services
In the following, a detailed listing of all the services is given, offered by AquaEcology in the field of aquatic ecology:
Phytoplankton (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
Water samples or net catches are analysed and listed for phytoplankton of all taxonomic groups, using the updated nomenclature. In fixed water samples, the phytoplankton organisms are identified with an inverted microscope and counted on the species or group level, in order to determine cell density per volume unit (e.g. individuals per litre). For estimating the phytoplankton biomass within the samples, every species is assigned to a geometric body, whose average dimensions are derived from a representative number of cells for each species. The biovolume calculated on this basis is then converted into carbon biomass.
The chlorophyll concentrations in the water column are a measure of the existing phytoplankton biomass. Chlorophyll is determined either by a fluorometer - as active chlorophyll in living cells with an 1-Hz-fluorometer - or after filtration and extraction by photometric detection. Further photosynthesis pigments are quantified by HPLC.
The primary production is analysed using the light-dark oxygen method. With existing facilities, also radioactive 14C can be used for the determination.
Zooplankton (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
Water samples or net catches are analysed and listed for zooplankton of all taxonomic groups, using the updated nomenclature. In fixed water samples, species and group abundances are determined, in order to obtain density of individuals per litre. For copepods, different development stages are detected. From a representative number of individuals, the size is measured.
Respiration is determined using the oxygen method.
Bacterioplankton / bacteria (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
The number of free and particle-bound bacteria in the water column is detected with an epifluorescence microscope following staining with special colours. Different morphological types are regarded. For estimating the carbon biomass, sizes of different types are determined and converted with factors.
With existing facilities, bacterial production (build-up of biomass) can be measured with radiolabelled substrates.
Based on 16S rRNA gene sequences highly specific oligonucleotides can be designed. These oligonucleotides are intended to be used for specific PCR or hybridization techniques like fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and can be optimised for different methods.
Phytobenthos (estuarine and fresh water)
Phytobenthos samples of different substrate origin are analysed and listed for species of all taxonomic groups (e.g. cyanobacteria, diatoms, green algae and others), using the updated nomenclature. If possible, quantification will be done on the species level, otherwise higher taxonomical levels and specific groups will be analysed.
Macrophytes (estuarine and fresh water)
The macrophytes in the water as well as in the near bank areas are analysed and listed, using the updated nomenclature. Furthermore, abundances and degrees of coverage are determined. Groups that are difficult to determine in the field, are reworked in the laboratory.
Macrozoobenthos (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
Sediment samples or dredge catches are analysed for species and abundances of macrozoobenthos according to the updated nomenclature.
Fishes (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
By using modern and gentle methods (e.g. electrofishing), species and abundances of fishes are determined in the aquatic system. Furthermore, sizes of the individuals and age distribution can be analysed within the community.
Dissolved chemical substances (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
In filtered water samples, the dissolved nutrients are analysed by continuous-flow analysis (CFA) with photometric detection (AA3 systems, Seal GmbH). For total dissolved phosphorus (TDP) and nitrogen (TDN), the CFA is preceded by digestion with peroxodisulphate in an autoclave. Total organic carbon (TOC) is measured with high-temperature catalytic oxidation (HTCO) devices, while carbohydrates and amino acids are analysed with HPLC systems. For the quantification of oxygen, the Winkler method with a Metrohm titration stand is used. The heavy metals are determined with AAS.
Particulate chemical substances (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
Particulate carbon (PC) and nitrogen (PN) are directly measured from filters by using HTCO devices. Particulate phosphorus (PP) is photometrically analysed with AA3 after digestion with peroxide and sulphuric acid. Pigments are extracted from filters and determined by HPLC.
Hydrography (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
During field surveys on research vessels or in mesocosm experiments, various physical and physico-chemical parameters are recorded in-situ with automatic probe systems.
Environmental impact analysis (marine, estuarine and fresh water)
For ecological assessments being a basis for environmental impact analysis, expert's reports in the hydrochemical and in the hydrobiological field are offered for various parameters: