The world oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contain 97 percent of the planet's water. They play a central role in the earth’s climate and weather systems and are unique habitats for fish finally ending up on our plates. How can we make sure that our oceans and marine ecosystems continue to fare well in future, and provide the services we critically depend upon?
Seas are under pressure. The changing climate alters habitat properties. And various interests compete for limited space and ecosystem services provided by the oceans. Fisheries and mariculture supply us with seafood and create jobs for thousands of people. At the same time, off-shore energy is to be harnessed in the oceans and about 900 ships are sailing the North Sea at any time. Last but not least, rivers discharge heavy nutrient and pollutant loads into the sea.
How can the numerous uses and conflicting interests be solved in such a way that we can preserve these valuable ecosystems in future, and still be able to harvest living resources sustainably - even if environmental conditions change? Are the oceans still providing viable habitats for marine life? To answer these questions, profound knowledge about the oceans is crucial. We need reliable observations and data collected consistently over many years. In Germany, the Thünen Institute is responsible for much of the long-term monitoring of living marine resources and the marine environment. To this end we examine not only fish stocks and invertebrate organisms but also the physical and chemical properties of water bodies and the seafloor. Pollutant levels and radioactive substances in fish as well as frequency and intensity of fish diseases serve as indicators of environmental pollution. This work directly feeds into a dialogue between our scientists and political decision makers with a view to achieving good environmental status as formulated in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). By 2020 all European seas should be in "good environmental status".
Determining the status of living marine resources and environment is a European task as marine systems are interconnected across national borders. The Thünen Institute with its long-term data collection- and research programs is deeply involved in this work. In international working groups our experts contribute to the development of evaluation methods and environmental standards. At the same time we keep an eye on what’s happening on our own doorstep, i.e. in the German exclusive economic zone in the North and Baltic Seas and zoom in on local issues. Besides environmental assessment, this encompasses particularly the examination of climate effects on local habitats, fish stocks and communities as well as anthropogenic influences. The entire suite of activities helps to improve our predictions of future developments, and to provide fisheries and marine policy with viable concepts for managing living resources and the marine environment.
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