The ZMT runs a marine experimental facility (MAREE) to cultivate and rear tropical organisms year-round. Ecophysiological experiments can be conducted in a simulated tropical marine environment. The flexible infrastructure offers more than 60 experimental sea water aquaria in several independent recirculating systems (>10 m³ water volume). In addition, 24 mesocosms (>300 l water volume each) allow to investigate responses of benthic communities to environmental stressors. Reservoir tanks provide more than 50m3 of seawater, which is provided by the Aquarium Wilhelmshaven. A gas mixing system makes it possible to simulate pre-industrial, present-day and future atmospheric CO2 concentrations to conduct ocean acidification experiments.
The research concept of the MAREE comprises three general research lines:
Many research projects at the ZMT include field studies aiming at understanding ecological and biogeochemical processes in tropical marine ecosystems. The MAREE is well equipped to conduct a variety of laboratory experiments, making it possible to distinguish between relative effects of different environmental factors on marine organisms. Thus, the influence of e.g. water temperature, ocean acidification and nutrient concentration on study organisms can be analysed selectively.
The constant supply from monocultures of microalgae and zooplankton enables the rearing of delicate marine planktonic larvae of invertebrates and fishes. Breeding mechanisms and difficulties in reproducing sensitive marine organisms, especially of ecologically or commercially important species, are investigated at the ZMT. The research focus is on so called “ecosystem-engineers” - organisms with important functional roles in their ecosystem such as corals and macro algae. In addition, the breeding research targets ornamental organisms, which are of special interest for the aquarium market.
Ecophysiological experiments help to understand how organisms interact with their environment. Since the environment is changing, the effects of different environmental parameters on metabolism, physiology and live cycles of marine key organisms gain in importance. At the ZMT selected parameters and potential indicator processes and species are investigated. At present the impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms are in the focus of interest. Furthermore, respiration measurements of selected ornamental organisms are conducted to gain knowledge about their physiology.