Pieterjan Verhelst

Pieterjan Verhelst
Research Institute for Nature and Forest | INBO · Aquatic Management

PhD

About

28
Publications
10,551
Reads
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275
Citations
Citations since 2017
23 Research Items
269 Citations
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Introduction
I am working at the Aquatic Management team of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (Belgium), where I study fish ecology, both fundamental and applied, to provide knowledge and solutions for adequate management. The main topics relate to fish movement, habitat use and habitat restoration. Various techniques are used such as different kinds of telemetry (acoustic, PIT and archival), mark-recapture and fishing. Contact: pieterjan.verhelst@inbo.be
Additional affiliations
May 2014 - December 2018
Ghent University
Position
  • PhD Student

Publications

Publications (28)
Article
Full-text available
1. Technological advances are key to maximizing the information potential in electronic tagging studies. Acoustic tags inform on the location of tagged animals when they are in the range of an acoustic receiver, whereas archival tags render continuous time series of logged sensor measurements, from which trajectories can be inferred. 2. We applied...
Article
Adjusted tidal barrier management (ATBM, setting tidal doors ajar during tidal rise) is currently applied in Belgium to improve glass eel passage through tidal gates. However, salt intrusion in the receiving waters due to upwelling and accumulation of saline groundwater as a result of intensive drought put severe pressure on the unrestrained use of...
Article
Full-text available
Animals need to move between different habitats to successfully complete their life cycle. Anthropogenic activities and infrastructure impact animal movement, especially in the aquatic realm, due to habitat alteration (including fragmentation), pollution, overexploitation, the spread of invasive alien species and climate change. Gaining knowledge o...
Article
The transition from marine to freshwater is a challenging task for juvenile eels. This critical step in the early eels’ life is preceded by a metamorphosis from the oceanic larval to the continental glass eel stage, requiring major energy‐demanding morphological, physiological and behavioural modifications during which time these animals do not fee...
Article
Full-text available
Background In acoustic telemetry studies, detection range is usually evaluated as the relationship between the probability of detecting an individual transmission and the distance between the transmitter and receiver. When investigating animal presence, however, few detections will suffice to establish an animal’s presence within a certain time fra...
Article
Full-text available
Background Externally attached archival data logging tags are increasingly used to unravel migration routes of fish species at sea. Due to the relatively large size of the tags, their application on seaward migrating anguillid eels often forms a challenge in terms of feasibility and impact on the eel’s swimming performance. In this study, we invest...
Article
Full-text available
Recent developments in tracking technology resulted in the mapping of various marine spawning migration routes of the European eel ( Anguilla anguilla ). However, migration routes in the North Sea have rarely been studied, despite many large European rivers and hence potential eel growing habitat discharge into the North Sea. In this study, we pres...
Article
Increasing habitat fragmentation is a major contributing factor to dramatic reductions in populations of migratory species worldwide. Diadromous fish species in particular are affected by this anthropogenic disturbance, resulting in historically low population abundances. Despite a plethora of management measures and considerable investment, desire...
Article
Full-text available
Migratory species do not necessarily behave migratory continuously. An important aspect of studying migratory species is therefore to distinguish between movement and resident behavior. Telemetry is a rapidly evolving technique to study animal movement, but the number of data processing techniques to account for resident behavior remains limited. I...
Article
Tidal barrages on water ways constitute a major threat for diadromous fish species such as the critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.). An unobstructed migration route between the spawning area in the Sargasso Sea and the freshwater growth habitats in Europe is crucial for the European eels’ long-term survival. Every spring howeve...
Article
Full-text available
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a fascinating species, exhibiting a complex life cycle. The species is, however, listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List due to an amalgam of factors including habitat loss. This study investigated the burrowing behaviour and substrate preference of glass, elver and yellow stages of A. anguilla....
Article
Full-text available
Passive acoustic telemetry data are used to study animal movement in aquatic environments, but tools to process the data are limited. In areas that are too large to be fully covered by the limited detection ranges of receivers or acoustic listening stations, researchers generally assume that animals are residing in an area when they are detected fr...
Article
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a critically endangered species, whose recruitment stocks have declined to nearly 1% compared to the late 70's. An amalgam of factors are responsible for this, amongst them migration barriers, pollution, habitat loss, parasite infection and overfishing. A lot of recent studies focus on aspects that can increa...
Article
Aquatic biotelemetry techniques have proven to be valuable tools to generate knowledge on species behaviour, gather oceanographic data and help in assessing effects from anthropogenic disturbances. These data types support international policies and directives, needed for species and habitat conservation. As aquatic systems are highly interconnecte...
Article
Full-text available
Acoustic telemetry is a commonly applied method to investigate the ecology of marine animals and provides a scientific basis for management and conservation. Crucial insight in animal behaviour and ecosystem functioning and dynamics is gained through acoustic receiver networks that are established in many different environments around the globe. Th...
Article
Full-text available
Since the early 20th century, European eels ( Anguilla anguilla L.) have been dichotomously classified into ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ heads. These morphs are mainly considered the result of a differential food choice, with narrow heads feeding primarily on small/soft prey and broad heads on large/hard prey. Yet, such a classification implies that head-w...
Article
Among the many man-made structures that facilitate shipping, navigable canals take an important position. These canals may offer energetically favourable migration routes for diadromous fish, but they may also obstruct fish migration, for instance at shipping locks. Because the use of shipping canals by, and their effects on, migrating fish remain...
Article
Movement is considered an essential process in shaping the distributions of species. Nevertheless, most species distribution models (SDMs) still focus solely on environment-species relationships to predict the occurrence of species. Furthermore, the currently used indirect estimates of movement allow to assess habitat accessibility, but do not prov...
Article
Connectivity between freshwater habitats and marine areas is heavily obstructed by anthropogenic structures (e.g. weirs, pumping stations, sluices…), leading to a high pressure on diadromous fish populations. A better understanding of fish migration behaviour in relation to these barriers is needed to take proper mitigation actions. We investigated...
Poster
Full-text available
Worldwide, water levels of freshwater systems are controlled by structures such as pumping stations, weirs, dams and sluices. These structures can cause substantial mortalities to the European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.). However, pumping stations may also affect migration behaviour, resulting in delays or even migration stops. In this study, we ass...
Article
Full-text available
Due to a recruitment decline of more than 90% in 30 years, the European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) has been classified by IUCN as critically endangered. Although the species has been studied intensively to obtain knowledge to improve management, studies about the resident yellow stage are relatively scarce. In this study, 52 large female yellow eel...
Article
Full-text available
The European eel Anguilla anguilla L. is a critically endangered fish species that migrates from coastal and freshwater habitats to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. However, the exact migration routes and destination of European eel are still unknown. We are the first to observe southward migrating silver eels in the North Sea. Eels were tagged with acou...
Article
Full-text available
Topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva) is one of the most invasive aquatic fish species in Europe and causes adverse effects to ecosystem structure and functioning. Knowledge and understanding of the species’ interactions with the environment and with native fish are important to stop and prevent the further spread of the species. Creating species...
Poster
Full-text available
The marine spawning migration of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) is one of the most challenging biological questions to date. Despite extensive research on the complex life cycle of this critically endangered species, many questions still remain. One of these knowledge gaps is the eel migration route from the European coastline to their spa...

Questions

Question (1)
Question
Hi, I am studying fish migration and behaviour by means of acoustic telemetry. In order to analyse the home range, I am applying the package adehabitatHR. Is there any possibility to take the land masses (i.e. the physical barriers) into account?
Thanks in advance

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Projects

Projects (2)
Project
Mapping the migration routes of silver European eels in the marine environment.
Project
Estuaries and coastal areas are subject to anthropogenic activities, as the largest harbours and economic activities are located along river banks and close to shore. Known to have a high habitat diversity, estuaries and coastal areas play a key role in the life cycle of many organisms, including diadromous and marine fish. As such, these areas can serve as transport routes, foraging or nursery areas. In order to conserve these areas in a cost-efficient and sustainable way, a better understanding of the ecosystem functions and services is needed. The Western Scheldt estuary and adjacent coastal area of Belgium are an important migration route and resident area for diadromous and marine fish. We selected Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla) as two economic important indicator species for resp. marine and diadromous fish species, in order to assess the importance of estuarine and coastal areas as a key habitat for these species. The results of this study will be useful for management measures for the conservation and restoration of the eel and cod stocks.