The North Sea

Intensive utilization of the North Sea, e.g., transport, extraction and disposal of sand, laying of cables and pipes, fishery, and –for the last few years- area intensive usage by offshore wind farms result in an increase in anthropogenic stress on the environment.

A state-of-the-art ecosystem management and modern environmental protection aim at sustainable usage of our coasts, focusing on key functions of the ecosystem.

A better understanding of ecological functioning and the responses of the system to stress is therefore essential. Knowledge of the corridor of natural variability and comprehension of ecologically relevant scales, spatial as well as temporal, is an indispensable prerequisite for the distinction between anthropogenic and natural impacts.

Key Activities

We are investigating

  • the distribution of the benthos on different spatial (local-regional) and temporal (seasonal-long-term) scales
  • effects of natural and anthropogenic change on the benthic system, i.e., ecosystem shifts caused by environmental shifts
  • the ecological functioning of the benthos, i.e., the coupling of regulating environmental factors and ecosystem functions including consequential ecosystem services

To that end we are employing an extensive base of reliable, validated and georeferenced data from the southern North Sea collected during several decades of sampling. Models are coupled to these data, and the results are made accessible to agencies, decision makers, scientists, and the interested public through information systems and visualization tools. 

Current Projects