Sustainability for Marine Regions Kick-off meeting: CoastalFutures, a component of the DAM research mission, researches utilization of the sea and coasts
Press release of the Helmholtz Centre Hereon
Subject of the research mission is the “protection and sustainable utilization of marine areas.” The Deutsche Allianz Meeresforschung (DAM) studies the effects of utilization of the sea and the impacts of marine and coastal protection strategies. Two pilot projects and five collaborative projects investigate the ecological, economic and social impacts of stressors on the North and Baltic Seas. The objective is to Identify courses of action on behalf of users and decision makers. The collaborative CoastalFutures project, in which the Leichtweiß-Institut Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources (LWI) of the Technische Universität Braunschweig is also involved, is coming together for a virtual kick-off meeting from 24-26 January. The project is coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre Hereon.
Seas and coasts provide nourishment, energy and raw materials. They are vacation destinations and transportation routes, but they are also vital and unique natural areas. “Protection and sustainable utilization of marine areas” is the research mission of DAM, which began in December 2021. DAM aims to create knowledge for action in utilizing marine and coastal areas. It is oriented toward the common good, ensures prosperity and protects the environment. The Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) is providing support for the long-term mission with 25 million euros over an initial period of three years.
Providing Knowledge for Action
Climate change, pollution caused by humans and overutilization of ecosystems are increasingly problematic for the seas and coasts. The mission aims to analyze and classify the use and stressors of marine regions in such a way that a scientifically founded basis is created for decision making by policy makers, governmental bodies and the economic sector. A broad transdisciplinary approach has been chosen to address precisely the needs in collaboration with these stakeholders.
The CoastalFutures project is one of seven projects in the mission. Its objective is to create “future scenarios to promote sustainable use of marine areas.” It is coordinated by Hereon and funded by the BMBF with 5.5 million euros. With its focus on the future, it is an important component of the mission. “Utilizing the seas and coasts will become more extensive in the coming years and decades. This utilization will include measures for adaptation and for avoiding climate change. Our goal is to assess the consequences of this socially desirable development and to create effective protection strategies for these altered conditions,” says Prof. Corinna Schrum, Director of the Institute of Coastal Systems – Analysis and Modeling at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon. Schrum is also spokesperson for the mission.
Innovative Instrument for Decision Support
A central objective of the project is the development of a cross-scale model system for the North and Baltic Seas and their coastal regions. This will create a virtual environment in which the impacts of climate and human utilization on ecosystems can be studied and sustainable protection concepts can be tested. Future scenarios are designed and simulated together with partners from maritime management, stakeholders from the industrial sector and non-governmental organizations. Scenario development requires an in-depth understanding of societal, political and institutional connections and regional contextualization. This includes individual perceptions of problems, beliefs and attitudes of interest groups, consideration of conflicts, and opportunities for compromise. Together with decision makers, effective options for protection and management are developed and assessed in a participatory approach.
Cause and effect chains and basic knowledge requirements are determined in a transdisciplinary manner. Sectoral and cross-sectoral scenarios are developed and simulated with different stakeholders. Subsequently, a dialogue is initiated with the involved stakeholders regarding evaluation of the scenario modelling results, emerging risks as well as new institutional and regulatory requirements.
CoastalFutures concentrates on four management sectors: (1) offshore energy production, (2) fisheries, (3) coastal protection and sand management as well as (4) nutrient and pollutant inputs. Field research is conducted to fill critical knowledge gaps in addition to modeling based on climate change scenarios, weather data and, for example, data on food webs in the sea and on the seabed. Not only natural science, but also social and political aspects are considered in this project. Social scientists at the institute, for instance, consult fishermen on their utilization patterns and needs.
Transdisciplinary Team and Supporting Junior Scientists
“We will identify effective management options through a transdisciplinary research approach,” says Schrum. Around fifteen Hereon researchers are involved in the project and another fifty participate from the project partner institutes. These individuals bring a broad expertise in the natural and social sciences. This expertise includes regional Earth system modeling and climate scenarios; biogeochemistry and food webs; marine and coastal engineering; hydro- and morphodynamics; social science; economics; administrative legal expertise; experience in stakeholder interaction and policy advocacy. An important aspect of the project is also to support junior researchers. CoastalFutures will employ numerous post-docs, doctoral candidates, and students within the context of their theses work. Due to the transdisciplinary nature of the project, the junior scientists are trained in complementary manners of thinking and working.
A total of ten project partners and five associate partners are involved in CoastalFutures. In addition to Hereon, these partners include: the Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde, the Universität Kiel, the Technische Universität Braunschweig, the Universität Hamburg, the Thünen-Institut, the Leibniz Universität Hannover, the Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, the Alfred-Wegener-Institut – Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung und the Technische Universität Hamburg. Associated partners are the Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie, the Deutsche Wetterdienst, the Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau, the Bundesamt für Naturschutz and the SWIMWAY Wattenmeer-Gruppe.