The ZMT is to get a new junior research group! The project of the new group ‘Resilience of Pacific Island coral reef social-ecological systems in times of global change’ (REPICORE) will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 1.2 million euros. The ecologist Dr Sebastian Ferse will lead the team of young scientists.
The inexorable change in environmental and living conditions in many tropical coastal regions brings an urgent issue to the fore: how resilient are coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs to damaging influences? When can a system still regenerate itself and when is the point of no return? The geographic focus area of the joint project, the Melanesian Islands in the Pacific, offers ideal conditions to study the reaction of the reefs to different factors. Located close to the global epicentre of marine biodiversity, the region is characterised by great species abundance in the coastal seas combined with societies that are either still strongly dependent on reef resources or that have abandoned these traditional livelihoods.
The people of the Solomon Islands are still much attached to their traditions. 80% of the people rely on resources from the sea for their livelihood. Measures to protect the marine resources have been handed down from generation to generation and are still implemented today. On the Fiji Islands, by contrast, tourism has had considerable impact. Here significant social change has taken place in recent years. In these contrasting environments, the researchers shall examine and integrate data from various interrelated topics – reef fish and benthic communities, the extent of human intervention in nature and the social conditions on the islands – in order to understand the factors determining the resilience of these social-ecological systems.
“Whilst the central tropical Pacific region and its inhabitants would most likely have to bear a main burden of global climate change, thus far the region has not received sufficient research attention to understand the consequences and to devise appropriate strategies of action,” said Ferse. The joint project is being conducted in cooperation with leading international experts from different disciplines. Contacts exist with research institutions in Hawaii, Australia, the U.S., Sweden and France.