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The ZMT honours Prof. Dr. Ulrich Saint-Paul for his achievements as mangrove ecologist

At the end of the winter semester 2013/2014 the mangrove ecologist Prof. Dr. Ulrich Saint-Paul ended his active service at the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology. In recognition of his scientific achievements, the ZMT will host a festive colloquium and a symposium to which prominent colleagues and project partners have been invited.

In 1993, less than two years after the founding of the Center, Ulrich Saint-Paul was appointed to a joint professorship for marine ecology at the ZMT and the University of Bremen. The hydrobiologist and fisheries scientist, who until this time had focused on tropical freshwater systems, found here a new, extremely exciting area of research: the study of tropical tidal forests on the border between land and sea, the mangroves.

At the ZMT Saint-Paul founded a mangrove-ecological work group and became head of the MADAM project (Mangrove Dynamics and Management), which was funded for a ten-year period by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The aim of MADAM was to develop the scientific foundations for the protection and sustainable use of one of the largest mangrove areas in the world in northeastern Brazil. The project was based on a novel, integrated approach in which actors of different social spheres interacted with scientists of different disciplines. This approach is now regarded as seminal. With the MADAM project, the ZMT has become an internationally leading institution in tropical marine research.

The increasing exploitation of mangrove forests, which over the last 50 years has led to a one-third decrease in mangrove area, was countered with reforestation measures in many countries. In the context of further projects Ulrich Saint-Paul oversaw such initiatives scientifically. He was especially concerned to what extent the new, monoculture-based forest structures could assume the same ecological functions as a natural forest.

When large areas of Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries were devastated in the tsunami of December 2004, the dedicated researcher addressed the public in a declaration in which he emphasised the importance of mangroves as bulwarks against storm surges and tidal waves. The extent of destruction was worst where coral reefs and mangroves were missing as a breakwater and buffer zones.

The symposium in honour of Professor Saint-Paul will bring together well-known mangrove ecologists from around the world to present current trends in mangrove research. These include, in particular, the current highly underestimated role of mangroves in the global carbon cycle, their key role as nursery areas for economically important marine animals as well as issues of reforestation.

To the program of the symposium

To the laudatio of G. Hempel