Earth

Understanding the Anthropocene

The Earth system is a highly complex system that mankind increasingly interferes with, changing natural balances and material cycles. Thus, the increasingly rapid pace of climate change is also a result of anthropogenic activity, making Earth system research more important than ever. The oceans play a special role in climate development, influencing climate not only thermally but also through the exchange of gases with the atmosphere.

The “Anthropocene” is a term coined by Nobel Prize laureate Paul Crutzen to describe the geologic epoch in which the influence of human activities on the environment has reached a dimension comparable to that of natural influences. British geologists proposed to replace the current warm period, the Holocene, which lasts about 12,000 years until today, by the “Age of Man” (Greek: Anthropocene) to delineate the change in nature. This era signifies the sum of all man-made environmental changes, both positive and negative. The year 1800, the start of industrialization, is discussed as a potential beginning of this age. Since that time, the concentration of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the biosphere has increased and leads, additional to increasing temperatures and thus rising sea level, to acidification of the oceans.

At the HWK, the field of Marine and Climate Research uses reconstructions of climate history and marine material cycles to better understand the current climate change and not only predict future climate development and its effects on marine ecosystems and processes, but also to analyze the anthropogenic influence and determine the need of action. This has led to the following research topics:

  • Effects of global change on marine ecosystems
  • Biogeochemical cycles and their changes
  • Influence of natural and anthropogenic pollution
  • Reduction/avoidance of climate-relevant gas emission
  • Sustainable use of marine resources
  • Marine microbial communities and their role in climate change
  • Biodiversity and species shift
  • Interaction of coastal waters with the ocean
  • Changes in hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics
  • Long-term coastal development

As an interdisciplinary Institute for Advanced Study, the HWK with its four scientific areas offers the ideal setting for inter- and transdisciplinary approaches in the form of Fellowships, conferences and projects. In the field of Marine and Climate Research, besides its classical disciplines such as Marine Biology, Geology, (Bio-)Geochemistry, Meteorology or Physical Oceanography, integrated approaches are also developed, such as Climate Research and Governance, and Integrated Coastal Zone Management, which bridge to the Social Sciences. Also in place are approaches for collaborations with Energy Research and Psychology, such as the question of whether global climate change is associated with a cognitive change in global civilization.

The HWK supports, among others, projects addressing the following topics:

  • Paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic reconstructions
  • Development of new biomarkers and proxies
  • Studies on geochemical and biogeochemical cycles
  • Studies on particle flux in the ocean
  • Microbial communities in marine sediments
  • Effects of climate variability and climate change
  • Modeling of ocean circulation and turbulence

The HWK expressly encourages current and future Fellows to introduce new topics into the institute and the research landscape of Northwestern Germany.

The HWK offers Fellowships and Junior Fellowships for three to ten months.

Regional collaboration partners (selected):

  • MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen
  • Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), University of Oldenburg
  • Jacobs University Bremen
  • Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI), Bremen
  • Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre  for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Bremerhaven
  • Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology in Bremen