Research on the ocean’s most productive areas

Three projects investigate upwelling areas off Africa and South America.

Although they occupy less than two percent of the oceans, the coastal upwelling areas in the eastern parts of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean are among the biologically most productive marine areas worldwide. They not only support a large biodiversity, but also provide 20 percent of the world's fish harvest. These regions therefore have an enormous societal and economic importance for the adjacent countries as well as for the global food supply. However, can they still serve this function if the oceans continue to warm, acidify, and lose oxygen, and if the wind systems driving the upwelling will change?

To tackle these questions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports three joint multi-institutional projects under the overarching theme “Importance of climate change in coastal upwelling areas” with a total of € 8.7 million, starting in January 2019. The projects will investigate the coastal upwelling areas in the north- and south-eastern Atlantic as well as in the south-eastern Pacific ocean. The GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel will be responsible for the overarching coordination of the three projects.

One of the three joint projects is called EVAR (“The Benguela Upwelling System under climate change – Effects of VARiability in physical forcing on carbon and oxygen budgets”). It is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Heide Schulz-Vogt from the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde (IOW) and will focus primarily on the upwelling system of the Benguela Current and investigate possible climate change impacts on key biogeochemical processes in this very important fishing ground.

The second of the three project is REEBUS (Role of Eddies for the Carbon Pump in Coastal upwelling Areas). “Based on observations we know that oceanic eddies play a central role in the physical, biogeochemical and biological properties of coastal upwelling areas”, explains REEBUS coordinator Prof. Dr. Arne Körtzinger from GEOMAR. As part of the project, the scientists want to better understand eddies by applying a novel, multi-layered observational approach combined with process models.

The third joint project CUSCO (Coastal Upwelling System in a Changing Ocean), coordinated by GEOMAR, focuses on the upwelling area in the Humboldt Current off Peru. “Although it is the most productive of all coastal upwelling areas, it is completely unclear how biological productivity is related to the upwelling intensity. We want to better understand how this highly productive ecosystem reacts when the upwelling changes due to climate change”, says Professor Riebesell, who also coordinates CUSCO.

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Facts

Project numbers:
CUSCO: 03F0813
EVAR: 03F0814
REEBUS: 03F0815

Budget:
8.7 million

Duration:
01/2019 - 12/2021