Direct human interventions and natural processes act in concert to change the fabric of tropical coastal ecosystems and affect their regulatory and socioeconomic functions. As a result, the ecosystem's ability to provide goods and services and their potential to act as natural protection against extreme events (like Tsunamis) and as sinks for climatically relevant trace gases are often reduced. These problems are likely to be compounded in the coming decades with the rapid increases in coastal populations observed in the tropics.
It is expected, that perturbations of coastal ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea grass meadows, estuaries and coastal seas,
will intensify. The protection of these ecosystems requires interdisciplinary concepts that will meet the needs of the tropical countries. There is a lack of the necessary scientific information on these ecosystems in order to develop concepts concerning their structure, function, resilience to change, and how they interact with the adjacent marine and terrestrial systems.
This is where the ZMT's activities come in. The overall objective of its research is to analyse tropical ecosystems in their complexity and to establish the necessary scientific base for the development of concepts for Integrated Coastal Zone Management.