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Our research activities involve the modelling and analysis of complex biological, ecological and socioeconomic systems. We are particularly interested in the organisation of such complex adaptive systems and in their emergent properties. We typically develop and work with continuous-time, differential equation models and we touch on aspects pertaining to systems theory, nonlinear dynamics, collective behaviour, evolution, and adaptation. Some of our current projects focus on the biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nutrient acquisition mechanisms, biogenic calcification, ocean acidification, trait adaptation, and evolution of cooperation in humans.

-> OGUMI - A Real-Time Common Pool Resource Experiment Tool. 
We developed an Android-based open source App called OGUMI for conducting common-pool resource experiments, choice experiments, and questionnaires in the field, in the laboratory, and online. We provide OGUMI as a free software under the Apache License 2.0. The source code and documentation is available on GitHUB. A compiled, ready-to-use version of OGUMI for Android tablets and telephones with related documentation can be downloaded here.

-> G. Brandt, M.M. Kulesz, D. Nissen & A. Merico (2017) OGUMI – A new mobile application to conduct common-pool resource experiments in continuous time, PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178951.

The Slow Demise of Easter Island

Easter Island has been considered a general model of human-environment interactions on a global scale and its supposed social-ecological collapse is often taken as a grim warning for our society. However, the island’s detailed history, in particular with respect to the rise and fall of the human population and to the disappearance of the forest, remains controversial. Is Easter Island a paradigm for resource overexploitation and self-destruction (ecocide), for a society destroyed by colonialism and slavery (genocide), or rather an example of a slow and long fall (slow demise)? Using a mathematical model, we showed that out of these three possibilities only the slow demise can best explain the available archeological evidence.

Coral polyp calcification

We recently developed a model for studying coral polyp calcification. The model simulates the carbonate system in four different compartments: the seawater, the polyp tissue, the coelenteron, and the calcifying fluid. More information...

Indonesian peatland degradation and the global carbon cycle

Recent studies have estimated that CO2 release from drained peatland is between 355 Mt y−1 and 855 Mt y−1 in 2006 of which 82% mainly coming from Sumatra and Kalimantan. The effects of these emissions on the global carbon cycle are largely unknown. More information...

Trait-based modelling

We develop ecological models based on functional traits. Traits are characteristics or observable features of an organism that may be inherited or acquired and are generally considered as reflecting adaptations to variation in the physical and biotic environment and trade-offs. More information...

Evolution of cooperation in social-ecological systems

Many marine ecosystems that are exploited for natural goods can be regarded as common pool resources. The management of such systems requires a detailed knowledge of the ecological resource under investigation and of the human behaviour. More information...


Third-party projects (funding agency)

HARVEST: Harvest behaviour in common pool resource systems: data analysis and modelling of dynamic decision making (DAAD / AIMS)

ADACAP: Modelling the adaptive capacity of plankton communities in a changing ocean (DFG)

SABER: Strandings of marine megafauna along the Brazilian coast: assessment of environmental and anthropogenic factors (von Humboldt / Capes)

SPICE III: Science for the Protection of Indonesian Coastal Ecosystems (BMBF)

EPOCA: European Project on OCean Acidification (EU)

Publication highlights

G. Brandt, M.M. Kulesz, D. Nissen & A. Merico (2017) OGUMI – A new mobile application to conduct common-pool resource experiments in continuous time, PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0178951.

D.C. Tavares, J.F. de Moura, A. Merico & S. Siciliano (2017) Incidence of marine debris in seabirds feeding at different water depths, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 119(2), 68-73. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.04.012.

A.N. Raharinirina, G. Brandt & A. Merico (2017) A trait-based model for describing the adaptive dynamics of coral-algae symbiosis, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 5, 31. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00031.

S.L. Smith, S. Vallina & A. Merico (2016) Phytoplankton size-diversity mediates an emergent trade-off in ecosystem functioning for rare versus frequent disturbances, Scientific Reports, 6(34170), 1-11. Press release.

E. Acevedo-Trejos, G. Brandt, S.L. Smith & A. Merico (2016) PhytoSFDM version 1.0.0: Phytoplankton Size and functional Diversity Model, Geoscientific Model Development, 9, 4071-4085.

J.F. de Moura, E. Acevedo-Trejos, D.C. Tavares, A.C.O. Meirelles, C.P.N. Silva, L.R. Oliveira, R.A. Santos, J.C. Wickert, R. Machado, S. Siciliano & A. Merico (2016) Stranding events of Kogia whales along the Brazilian coast, PLoS ONE, 11(1):e0146108.

J.F. Abrams, S. Hohn, T. Rixen, A. Baum & A. Merico (2016) The impact of Indonesian peatland degradation on downstream marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle. Global Change Biology, 22(1), 325-337.

T. Tyrrell, A. Merico & D.I. Armstrong McKay (2015) Severity of ocean acidification following the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 112(21), 6556-6561. Press release.

E. Acevedo-Trejos, G. Brandt, J. Bruggeman & A. Merico (2015) Mechanisms shaping size structure and functional diversity of phytoplankton communities in the ocean, Scientific Reports, 5(8918), 1-8.

Events organised or co-organised by our group

Workshop "Trait-based approaches to ocean life", 20-23 August 2017, Solstrand, Bergen, Norway.

Workshop "The Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic): Climate Change and Evolutionary Innovations", 16-17 May 2017, HWK, Delmenhorst, Germany"

Workshop "Plankton biodiversity, dynamic eco-physiology, and ecosystem function", 15-17 February 2017. ZMT, Bremen, Germany.

Workshop "Trait-based approaches in ecology", 11 November 2014. ZMT, Bremen, Germany.

Workshop "Mathematichal tools for understanding and managing fisheries: synthesizing and refining data and models", 7-9 May 2014. Mbour, Senegal.

Workshop "Trait-based approaches and other tools to better understand coral reef functioning", 16.12.2013. ZMT, Bremen, Germany.

Workshop "Trait evolution and adaptation", 12.06.2013. ZMT, Bremen, Germany.

Workshop "CArbon and Nutrients through Ocean Ecosystems (CANOE)", 17.08.2012. Geomatikum, Hamburg, Germany.

Workshop "Evolution of cooperation in socio-ecological systems", 28 September 2011. ZMT, Bremen, Germany.


Recent media coverage

DFG: Phytoplankton: schön, wichtig und gefährdet

Deutsche Welle: Fishing for sustainability

The Times: Ammonites wiped out when asteroid turned oceans acid

The Mirror: Asteroid, ocean acidification and ammonites at the end-Cretaceous

Daily Echo: Asteroid which killed dinosaurs may have wiped out molluscs too

Spektrum der Wissenschaft: Das Rätsel von Rapa Nui

Landeszeitung Lüneburg: Ökologischer Tanz auf der Rasierklinge

Leibniz Association: Das Rätsel der Rapa Nui