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Third-party Funding Success: ZMT Coordinates Research Project ECOLOC on the Chinese Tropical Island of Hainan

Within the framework of the German-Chinese Cooperation in the Marine Sciences funded by the German federal government, the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) can again record a success. The Bremen institute will coordinate a research programme which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 1.3 million euros. Eight other research institutions from Germany and China are participants in the ECOLOC* project, whose aim is to investigate damaging environmental influences in the tropical coastal ecosystems in China and there to promote the sustainable use of these ecosystems.

The island of Hainan in the South China Sea is China's only tropical region and the largest special economic zone in the country. The island is a popular travel destination for the Chinese – similar to the popularity of Majorca for German tourists.

Extensive parts of the coasts of Hainan are lined by species-rich ecosystems such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass meadows, which constitute an important basis for fisheries and the flourishing tourism – two of the key economic factors. Despite their ecological importance, these ecosystems are being damaged due to the rapidly increasing economic use. Resources are not used sustainably, and wastewater from agriculture, aquaculture and tourism facilities is destroying the sensitive habitats. Until now the influence of an upwelling area to the east has also been unclear. Here cold water rises from the depths to the surface, possibly bringing along with it the nutrient-rich water from the Pearl River via the deep South China Sea and thus influencing the productivity and the species community.

“For us scientists, the island of Hainan is like an ideal laboratory where we can explore the effects of climate change and regional environmental changes. Many of the most important environmental factors which impair the marine ecosystems in the tropics converge here like under a magnifying glass,” said Dr. Tim Jennerjahn, biogeochemist at the ZMT and head of the new cooperation project from the German side.

During the three-year project, the scientists want to identify significant influences on the ecosystems such as occurrences of nutrients, contaminants or pathogens, determine their dissemination and investigate the reaction of the coastal habitats to the increasing changes.

“The results shall contribute to global research programmes and also be of direct use for local decision makers,” said Dr. Tim Jennerjahn. For this reason, Dr. Bevis Fedder, head of the ZMT Office for Knowledge Exchange, accompanied the ZMT researchers to the kick-off event of the partner consortium at the end of June in Haikou, the capital of Hainan. For the first time he will support a project from the outset with regard to networking with local policy makers and interest groups.

The ZMT and eight other research institutions from Germany and China cooperate in the ECOLOC project. The concept of the project is based on the results of the German-Chinese research project LANCET, which was successfully carried out from 2006 to 2011 under the direction of the ZMT.

ECOLOC: Abbreviation for: Environmental change affecting COastal ecosystems of tropical China during the Anthropocene: Landward vs. OCeanic influence

Partners of the ECOLOC project:

• ZMT – Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Bremen: PD Dr. Tim Jennerjahn (coordinator), Dr. Lucia Herbeck, Dr. Inga Nordhaus, Dr. Tim Rixen
• IUP – Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen: Dr. Thorsten Warneke
• IOW – Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Warnemünde: PD Dr. Matthias Labrenz, Dr. Günter Jost
• RWTH – Department of Geology, Geochemistry and Deposits of Petroleum and Coal (LEK), Aachen University of Technology: Dr. Larissa Dsikowitzky, Prof. Jan Schwarzbauer
• IFM-UHH – Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg: PD Dr. Thomas Pohlmann, Dr. Jian Su

• HAMFS – Hainan Academy of Marine and Fishery Science, Haikou: Prof. Daoru Wang (Coordinator)
• SIO – Second Institute of Oceanography, Hangzhou: Prof. Dongfeng Xu, Prof. Jianfang Chen
• TIO – Third Institute of Oceanography, Xiamen: Dr. Zhuhua Luo
• CMS – College of Marine Science, Hainan University, Haikou: Prof. Aimin Wang, Prof. Xiaoping Diao, Prof. Hailong Zhuo, Prof. Yan Wang, Prof. Hongwei Zhao, Prof. Huang Bo


PD Dr. Tim Jennerjahn
+49 (421) 23800 - 44

Pond aquaculture in Hainan (Photo: I. Nordhaus)

Bevis Fedder of the Office for Knowledge Exchange talking to a fisherwoman, Hainan (Photo: T. Jennerjahn)