In Antwerp the team will study vegetation, leaf-dwelling bacteria, bees and wasps, birds, bats and lichens.
Antwerp may have started as a Gallo-Roman settlement and then became a Frankish settlement by the 4th century AD. In the early 1500s the silting of the Zwin river and the decline of Bruges as a trading hub led to the transfer of trading houses to Antwerp. Antwerp then became the sugar trading capital of the world, receiving sugar imports from plantations, refining them, and selling them on to the German market. In addition, it was a major site of financial transactions, merchants trading goods from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, and manufacturing processing these goods. At this point it was one of the largest cities in northern Europe. The trade in pepper, silver and textiles all brought large profits to Antwerp, before its decline due to changing economic patterns and trade routes. In the context of the 80 Year's War, the Spanish sacked the city in 1576, burning down and destroying many buildings. The city was also damaged during WWII. After the war, adjacent municipalities were absorbed as districts into the city, and the port was developed. It currently has around 500,000 inhabitants.
Notable green spaces within Antwerp include the Antwerp Zoo, founded in 1843 to promote zoology and botany. It is classified as a monument, and houses around 950 species. The Botanical Garden, dating from 1825, has around 2000 species. The Rivierenhof, just outside the city, is a former estate that became a 135 ha public park in 1923. It is an English-style landscape park containing waterways, woods, areas for walking and for sports, a botanical garden, an arboretum and protected historical buildings.