Marine microbial life is of enormous, but often underestimated importance for the environmental conditions on Earth: microorganisms have a considerable influence on geochemical cycles such as the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles, but also on the oxygen content of the atmosphere. Complex yet poorly understood interactions between microbes play a particularly important role here. In particular the working groups in geochemistry, microbiology and mathematical modeling closely work together to explore the role of microorganisms in the large-scale fluxes of energy and matter between the sea, atmosphere and land. For this research, the institute hosts a world-wide unique infrastructure, in particular large experimental mesocosms, several high-performance mass spectrometers, a clean room and a proteogenomics laboratory.
Pollutants or fertilizers that flow from the land into the sea pose a burden on marine ecosystems in many places. While riverine fluxes towards the ocean are relatively well understood, relatively little is known about groundwater discharging below the surface into the sea - and which substances enter the marine environment along this path. The subsurface of the beach seems to be an efficient bioreactor that alters both the fresh groundwater and the circulating seawater prior to discharging into the sea. Marine researchers of ICBM work closely with colleagues of the Institute of Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Oldenburg to better understand this little-explored transition between land and sea.
Climate change and human use threaten the diversity of life in the seas. So far, however, relatively little is known about the extent to which marine ecosystems have already changed and how much humans influence have affected biodiversity. Biodiversity research at ICBM is particularly concerned with the interactions between species and the complex processes within coastal, marine ecosystems. Also the connectivity between biodiversity on land and in the ocean is a research topic of ICBM together with the Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Oldenburg.
The protection of the sea is a topic that has been the focus of ICBM since its founding. Currently, input, transport, transformation and fate of plastic waste, including microplastics, is a major research topic. The institute's applied research also seeks solutions to problems such as oil spills, drug residues or invasive species. At the new center for marine sensors (ZfMarS) of the ICBM at the Wilhelmshaven location, devices and detection tools are being developed to monitor the state of ecosystems. Citizens are closely involved in our research, and we cooperate closely with authorities and stakeholders.