Growing environmental problems in the tropics due to increasing urbanisation, contamination of coastal waters, unsparing use of natural resources and global climate change represent a considerable threat to tropical coastal ecosystems and their services. The Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) was established in 1991 in Bremen with the aim to provide a scientific basis for the protection and sustainable use of such ecosystems as mangroves, coral reefs, estuaries, upwelling systems and shelf seas.
The ZMT research addresses issues related to the structure and function of these ecosystems, to their resources and their reaction to human influences as well as to environmental changes. Research activities currently focus on ocean acidification, eutrophication and pollution, human use and the impact of climate change.
The institute conducts research in the fields of ecology, biogeochemistry and geology, ecological modelling as well as social sciences, using an integrative approach that combines the natural and social sciences. The ZMT is unique among German research institutes in its interdisciplinarity and exclusive concentration on tropical coasts. Projects are being implemented all over the tropics, with focal points in Southeast Asia, Southwest and East Africa and the Caribbean.
High value is placed on close collaboration with partners in tropical countries, including the operation of joint field stations. Research activities are accompanied by a wide range of capacity building measures aimed at educating young scientists from all over the world in the field of tropical marine ecology. The ZMT contributes to university education via cooperation with the University of Bremen and Jacobs University Bremen. Special training courses, summer schools and on-the-job training are offered both in Bremen and in partner countries.
The ZMT also acts as a centre for knowledge transfer to governmental and non-governmental institutions. Through its activities, the institute contributes to research and capacity building programs conducted by international organisations such as the Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) of the International Council for Science (ICSU).