The framework of our activities is the research program Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future which is part of the research field Earth and Environment of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (HGF). Within the current programm (2021 - 2027), we participate in the topics:
• Topic 4: Coastal Transition Zones under Natural and Human Pressure
Subtopic 4.1 Fluxes and transformation of energy and matter in and across compartments
Subtopic 4.2 Coastal ecosystem sustainability against the backdrop of natural and anthropogenic drivers
• Topic 6: Marine and Polar Life: Sustaining Biodiversity, Biotic Interactions, and Biogeochemical Functions
Subtopic 6.1 Future ecosystem functionality
Subtopic 6.3 The future biological carbon pump
The section BPP's long term goal is to quantify the structure and function of polar makrobenthic organisms, their interaction with the pelagic system and susceptibility to natural disturbances and climate change. A mechanistic understanding of the bentho-pelagic processes can serve as important baseline to model the biological responses to polar climate change.
Although retreating ice-shelves, increased iceberg calving and changing seasonal pack-ice cover are expected to have important repercussions on the Antarctic benthos, reliable data on benthic productivity and material cycling are still lacking. We aim at filling this gap to better understand the dynamics of Antarctic benthic communities and ecological functions by carrying out the first direct measurements to date on important process variables in situ, using advanced underwater technologies. While the focus is on sponges and corals, large skeletal filter-feeders providing important habitat for other organisms, we also study mobile sentinel species for climate change such as pinnipeds and fish, which play an important role in the Antarctic ecosystem as apex predators. The midterm goal is to combine results from investigations in structure and processes to better understand the biotic and environmental factors governing the distribution of biodiversity and biomass as well as their feedbacks to Antarctic climate change.