About the ICBM - Information for scientists

  • Coastal seas as object of research
  • The ICBM as part of the University of Oldenburg
  • The Section of Geochemistry and Analytic(s)
  • The Section of Geobiology and Ecology
  • The Section of Physics and Modelling

Coastal seas as object of research

The earth's coastal waters are amongst the most important habitats in the world. They are very productive and thus provide livelihood for many hundreds of millions of people and marine organisms. The coastal waters can be divided into more than 200 ecoregions with typical flora and fauna, each of them having a character of its own. Ever since the institute's establishment in 1987, coastal research has been a major concern of the researchers at the ICBM, the main focus being on those coastal regions, estuaries and shelf seas that are right on the doorstep: The Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage, the German Bight and the North Sea. In addition, the scientists are involved in various international research cooperations. The institute's work has always been characterised by closely cooperating scientists of different disciplines; biologists, biogeochemists, chemists, mathematicians, oceanographers and physicists. For only by analysing the biological, biogeochemical and physical processes in great detail will scientists be able to understand marine ecosystems and alterations of their habitats due to climate change. The investigation of single ecosystems thereby serves as a base for deducing their importance for the entire marine ecosystem. An additional research focus is on the impact of pollutants on marine organisms and ecosystems.

The ICBM as part of the University of Oldenburg

The ICBM is an integral part of the University of Oldenburg and thus the only university-based marine research institute in Lower Saxony. Accordingly, there is an intensive exchange between scientists and students. The interdisciplinary work is carried out in three sections:

The Section of Geochemistry and Analytics

The Section Geochemistry & Analytics deals with the chemical fluxes within the sea and the sea floor, including the analysis of fossil and recent deposits and sediments. For example, some of the researchers were involved in the Deep Sea Drilling Project at the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic. In cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Bremen, special attention is being paid to dissolved organic matter, the base for bacterial and other life in the sea. Researchers of the section also investigate pollutants in the water and sediments of rivers and marine areas. Among other things, they examine the impact of persistent (chlorinated) organic pollutants which accumulate in many organisms. In the recent years, waste in the sea has become an increasing concern. It is hitherto largely unknown, how small fragments of plastic, the so-called microplastics, affect organisms. Other scientists deal with the distribution of certain isotopes in the sea. The aim is to find evidence for alterations in ocean currents partly caused by sudden climatic changes.

The Section Geobiology and Ecology

The second section Abteilung Geobiology & Ecologydeals with those organisms which are at the base of the marine food web - bacteria and microalgae. The researchers examine how various bacteria utilise nutrients within the water and the sea floor and how these processes influence seawater chemistry or other organisms such as phytoplankton. An example is the widespread Roseobacter group, currently being investigated by a DFG-financed Collaborative Research Centre. Here, the ICBM cooperates with several German institutes. The scientists also explore pelagic and benthic phytoplankton communities which are responsible for much of the primary production in the sea. Other fundamental research questions concern the biodiversity and food web structure of these communities. In addition, the scientists want to know how climate change may alter the species composition of a certain area or learn about the effects of invasive species. Furthermore, the section's geoecologists investigate how climatic and environmental changes or sea level rise affect coasts and biosystems. They look back into the past of several Million years. But they also deal with short-term changes on a scale of a few years. The objects of research range from small, a few square centimetres sized diatom populations up to the effects of dike constructions on salt marshes.

The Section Physics and Modelling

The researchers of the third Section Physics & Modelling try to find out, among other things, how marine currents shape the chemical properties of and organisms in the sea floor. They develop mathematical models describing how the various organisms interact in the Wadden Sea and other habitats. Why are some areas rich in species and others more uniform? What happens if alien species invade the habitats? In addition, the researchers want to understand how the major marine and air currents have changed in the course of time - and how they will change due to global warming. Key questions are how sea level rise, increased risk of storm surges or altered marine currents may affect the coastal regions. Other scientists work on and develop sensors for measuring short and long term alterations of the marine environment. They also run an autonomous research platform in the Wadden Sea which permanently records data such as temperature and salinity, thus adding valuable information to investigations on environmental changes. Financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the ICBM and other cooperating institutes work on aspects of coastal zone management, for instance the modelling of currents. The aim is, to visualise and assess environmental problems, such as oil spills or the input of nutrients and pollutants. This is achieved by close cooperation of environmental scientists, economists, oceanographers and computer scientists.