Wetlands represent critical turnover habitats of marine, riverine and terrestrial derived matter at the transition between land and sea, and are major sources of carbon and nitrogen to the coastal region. Further, they are highly vulnerable to environmental alterations and thus sensitive indicators of changes at global, regional and local level. Yet, particularly in the tropics, the dynamics of these aquatic ecosystems with high organic matter and nutrient loads, strong, recurrent floods and distinct seasonal changes of precipitation are poorly understood. Particularly the multiple interactions between wetland vegetation, water biogeochemistry and microbiology are hardly studied. For almost two decades various working groups at the ZMT have dealt with a high diversity of topics related to wetland dynamics. From this experience new, interdisciplinary approaches have been developed which embrace:
Floods and droughts will intensify with climate change and affect health through habitat modifications and disease spread, with a high risk of rapid increase in diarrheal diseases. In tropical coastal areas, where impacts of land use and climate change on infectious diseases is of concern, there is scarce information on links between hydrology, ecosystem dynamics and pathogen seasonality.
Wetlands as well as coastal ecosystems and their basins are rapidly changing due to anthropogenic pressure and global warming; inducing changes in patterns of resource use and pathogens distribution worldwide. River basins and riparian ecosystems are a natural unit for vulnerability assessment and coastal management. Integrative interdisciplinary approaches are needed for the understanding of functional links between basin structure, morphology of different estuaries, marshes and mangroves, flooding and biogeochemical regimes, pathogen life cycles and disease incidence.
During the last century anthropogenic intervention led to a major loss of wetland area worldwide, diminishing their natural capacity to regulate fluxes of water, sediment and nutrients between land and ocean. Moreover, their role as habitat for flora and fauna, is increasingly disturbed. Of particular relevance are direct wetland destruction for conversion into agri- and aquaculture and human settlement, while disturbance by eutrophication and pollution indirectly leads to a decline in wetland health and extension.
The resulting impacts include changes in the biogeochemical cycling of organic matter and wetland ecology (food web, diversity, productivity), which are also of relevance for adjacent ecosystems. In order to understand the quality and quantity of changes, it is important to investigate fluxes, underlying processes and to compare different settings to obtain a comprehensive picture which can be used to develop sustainable protection and restoration measures, while ensuring the livelihood of local residents.
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Role of estuarine biogeochemistry on abundance and types of Vibrio cholerae in West Bengal: seasonality and relation with cholera incidence (BIOVIBEN; India)
Vulnerability of coastal lagoons to multidecadal climate oscillations (CHASICO, Argentina)
The role of mangroves for the biogeochemical fluxes into the coastal ecosystems of the Gulf of Beibu under anthropogenic change (BEIBU)
Cycling of nitrogen in the Bay of Bengal (NitroBoB)
Effects of land-based activities on the fluxes and transformation of nutrients and organic matter from watershed to the coastal sea (LANCET Subproject 5)