Marine and climate research at Kiel University awarded EUR 9.3 million

November 22, 2007

More than 70 scientists of the IFM-GEOMAR and Kiel University will investigate the interactions between climate, ocean circulation and biogeochemistry of tropical oceans in 14 sub-projects. "The focus of our project is oxygen", explains Professor Douglas Wallace of IFM-GEOMAR, spokesman for the new SFB. "In oceans oxygen acts as a switch controlling nutrient budget. This budget in turn is the basis of the marine food chain and the carbon balance. Climate change could possibly flip this switch through changes in physical, chemical and biological processes."

Oxygen concentration is the same throughout the atmosphere, yet in oceans it is distributed much less evenly, and the interaction of influencing factors has not yet been completely investigated. There were periods in geological history when the oceans were dramatically lower in oxygen content, something that had extreme repercussions on the marine ecosystems of the time. Today, open ocean regions with a reduced oxygen concentration, known as oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), are exclusively found in tropical oceans. The changes in the physical and biological processes brought on by climate change could drastically influence the scale and intensity of these OMZs. "The future ocean could dramatically change in terms of its biogeochemical composition, entailing positive and negative feedback effects on the climate, of which we can predict neither the intensity nor the consequences at the present state of science", says Wallace. This new SFB is to contribute to a better understanding of these mechanisms and to help define a quantitative basis. Core questions are: How do tropical OMZs react to climate changes and changes in ocean circulation" How do oceanic depressions and sources of nutrients react to changes in the oxygen content" In which period and to which extent did and does the oceanic oxygen and nutrient balance change"

These questions will be investigated by oceanographers, marine ecologists, molecular biologists, bio-geochemists, paleo-oceanographers, geologists and climate researchers. "Kiel is the forefront of expertise in this field", Kiel University's rector, Professor Thomas Bauer, emphasises. "The recently awarded excellence cluster 'The Future Ocean' and the new SFB mean our network of researchers is growing more interlinked."

Other international cooperation, in particular with researchers on the Cape Verde Islands and in Peru - the main regions of research for this SFB - is to complement the projects. "Marine research in Kiel is first-class, globally oriented and has an extensive network, which makes us internationally a prominent and popular partner", adds Professor Peter Herzig, director of IFM-GEOMAR.

"The fact that Kiel has acquired this collaborative research centre - one of seven currently in the city - means the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein has managed to further consolidate its position as a centre of excellent science. At the same time it provides a boost to expanding our expertise and educating young scientists", according to Minister of Science Dietrich Austermann. Half of the funding is intended for attracting additional staff, to support the researchers in Kiel with their work.

A collaborative research centre is a long-term cooperation of researchers within an institution of higher education, lasting up to 12 years, in which scientists collaborate in a framework involving multiple disciplines. Kiel University and IFM-GEOMAR already pursue, respectively have already pursued, joint research on ocean-related subjects in two collaborative research centres: the SFB 460 on Dynamics of Thermohaline Circulation Variability during the period from 1996 to 2006 and the SFB 574 on Volatiles and Fluids in Subduction Zones which started in 2003. Additionally the DFG awarded Kiel a cluster of excellence "The Future Ocean" in October 2006, which does multidisciplinary research on the subject of oceans on a similarly large scale.
Photos on this subject can be found at:

The chart shows how oxygen is distributed in the global ocean. Regions of near-zero oxygen, which are now the focus of the researchers in Kiel, are coloured purple and are concentrated in the tropics.
Copyright: IFM-GEOMAR

These researchers of IFM-GEOMAR and Kiel University will be leading the sub-projects. The spokesman of the SFB is Professor Douglas Wallace (first row, 2nd from left).
Copyright: IFM-GEOMAR


Kiel University
Press Office, head: Susanne Schuck, text: Sandra Ogriseck
Postal address: 24098 Kiel, telephone: +49 (0)431-880-2104, fax: +49 (0)431-880-1355
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Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR)
Executive affairs and public relations, Dr Andreas Villwock
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telephone: +49(0)431-600-2802, fax: +49 (0)431/600-2805
E-mail:, Internet:

Ministry of Justice, Employment and European Affairs of Land Schleswig-Holstein
Spokesman, Harald Haase
Telephone: +49 (0)431-988-4420, fax: +49 (0)431-988-4705, fax:
Internet: (German only)

Kiel University

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