Oceans cover seventy percent of the Earth’s surface. Characterised by their fascinating diversity, they hold resources essential to humanity’s survival. Not only do oceans and their ecosystems fulfil a key role in the control of global environmental processes; they are also subject to anthropogenic use. Though the strains on them are especially apparent in coastal regions and shelf seas, where densely settled cities and claims to usage rights are often concentrated, the vast and unpopulated regions in the Arctic and Antarctic are also transforming. Not only are the polar regions highly sensitive to climatic changes, they themselves are one of the main factors shaping the development of the global climate.
As an internationally respected centre of expertise on polar and marine research, the Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the very few scientific institutions in the world that are equally active in the Arctic and Antarctic. It coordinates German polar research efforts, while also conducting research in the North Sea and adjacent coastal regions in Germany. Combining innovative approaches, outstanding research infrastructure and years of expertise, the Alfred Wegener Institute explores nearly all aspects of the Earth system – from the atmosphere to the ocean floor. In this regard, initiatives to better grasp the climate-related processes on our planet have increasingly taken centre stage.