Marine microbial life is of high significance for the environmental conditions on earth, and often remains underestimated: Microorganisms considerably affect geochemical cycles, such as those of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. They also significantly control atmospheric oxygen levels. Little is known about their considerable and complex interrelationships among each other. The ICBM research groups for geochemistry, microbiology and mathematical modelling in particular tightly cooperate in investigating the role of microorganisms in large-scale energy and matter fluxes between ocean, land, and atmosphere. For this purpose, the ICBM has at its disposal an unrivalled infrastructure on a global scale, consisting, e.g., of a variety of experimental mesocosms, several high-performance mass spectrometers, a cleanroom as well as a proteogenomic lab.
Terrestrial runoff of pollutants and fertilizers into the oceans affect marine ecosystems in many places. While knowledge is relatively high on substances transported by rivers into the sea, comparably little is known about groundwater discharges below ocean surfaces and the substances thus ending up in the marine environment. The offshore seafloors appear to be efficient bioreactors which alter subterranean as well as circulating marine waters. ICBM marine researchers tightly cooperate with their colleagues of IBU (Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Oldenburg) for a better understanding of this scarcely explored transition between land and sea.
Climate change as well as human exploitation threaten marine diversity of life. At present, little is known about the extent of change of the marine environment and the human impact on biodiversity. Biodiversity research at ICBM deals in particular with the interaction of species within the framework of complex ecosystem processes, such as those on islands or in coastal regions. Another research topic of ICBM in cooperation with IBU (Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Oldenburg) aims at elucidating the interdependencies between land/sea biodiversity.
Since its foundation, protection of the oceans is one key aspect of ICBM research. Currently, input, transport, and fate of plastic litter, including microplastics, are a major subject of the institute’s research. Moreover, ICBM's applied research seeks for answers to environmental issues such as oil spills, pharmaceutical residues in the environment as well as invasive species. At the novel Center for Marine Sensors (ZfMarS) at the Wilhelmshaven site of ICBM, devices and measuring methods for environmental monitoring are developed. Citizens are tightly linked to our environmental research (“Citizen Science”) and there is extensive cooperation between us and governmental authorities as well as other stakeholders.