IOW Logo

Working group Ecology of benthic organisms - Current research

Different habitat types in the Baltic Sea (Photo: M. Gogina)
Different habitat types in the Baltic Sea (Photo: M. Gogina)

Acquisition, Assessment and Mapping of benthic species and biotopes
in North Sea and Baltic Sea
By implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Habitat Directive, the European marine policy has successfully created useful parameters for the preservation of biodiversity in our seas. The typologisation, mapping and characterization of benthic habitats as well as profound knowledge of the effects of anthropogenic impact are important prerequisites for the assessment of the environmental state in terms of these two guidelines. The IOW is not only coordinating this project which is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), but also elaborates the following relevant issues in this context:
1. Acquisition and Assessment of species and biotopes in the German Baltic Sea EEZ (exclusive economic zone)
- Surveying and monitoring relevant biotope types (e.g. sandbanks and reefs) and benthic biocoenosis
- Development and adjustment of state indicators based on community and population structures of some selected long-lived benthic species (e.g. ocean quahog Arctica islandica)
2. Biotope mapping including GIS-Management (Baltic Sea EEZ)
- Comprehensive sediment mapping within the EEZ for soft- and hard-bottom biotopes
- Combination of biological and geological data
3. Acquisition and assessment of anthropological impact on the marine environment (North Sea & Baltic Sea)
- Further development of an assessment strategy for non-indigenous species (neobiota)
- Acquisition and assessment of the regeneration potential of the benthic community of the Dogger Bank excluding ground-touching fisheries
Project duration: 1/1/2015 to 12/31/2018
Cooperation partners:
Alfred-Wegner-Institut (AWI)
BioConsult Schuchardt & Scholle GbR
Funded by:
Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN)
Contact: Dr. Alexander Darr
Pore water measurements
Pore water measurements reveal a stowaway (sea urchin) (Photo: M. Gogina)


SECOS - The Service of Sediments in the German Coastal Seas


The SECOS project aims for the development of a monetary evaluation approach in terms of ecosystem services of the sediments based on the distribution and magnitude of sedimentary capacities. In addition to the development of a functional georeferencing sediment atlas of coastal seas, particularly relevant areas within the German Baltic Sea are to be identified, enabling the assessment, mapping and prognostic modeling of sediment functions. Results will be involved in the development of management tools for marine coastal areas and build a scientific base for a sustainable management as well as the implementation of national and international coastal and marine conservation policies. The main task of the WG Ecology of Benthic organisms is particularly the modeling of the outer coastal area of the German Baltic Sea based on benthos data.

Cooperation partners:
University of Rostock
Insitute for ecological economic research (IÖW)
Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH)
Konrad-Zuse-Ceter for Information Technology Berlin
Funded by:




Monitoring Baltic Sea/North Sea

Our working group has been investigating, analyzing and assessing benthic communities of the Baltic Sea in years. Biological monitoring is one of our fundamental tasks.
In the context of a long-term environmental survey by the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) 9 Baltic Sea stations are sampled annually. Since 2008 we also monitor 12 stations in the North Sea twice a year. The Baltic Sea as well as the North Sea monitoring is carried out on behalf of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency. Results are applied to the MUDAB database of the “Bund-Länder-Mess-Programm” (BLMP) . Monitoring reports are published every year. To consistently assure a high quality standard our team participates in taxonomy workshops and in the macrozoobenthos ring test by the German Federal Environment Agency.
Funded by:

Amphipoda key

The goal of this project is to provide a comprehensive catalogue of Amphipoda (Crustacea) presently known from the Baltic Sea and its river watersheds. Moreover, this key considers also species from adjacent sea areas, which are very likely to immigrate into the Baltic. Keys are developed for the identification of 105 genera and 200 species (mostly male specimens) and comprise the characterization of these taxa, their distribution, ecology as well as their morphology.
Adult specimens were examined with a Zeiss Discovery V12 stereomicroscope and identified. Digital microphotographs were taken with an AxioCam ICC3 (Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH, Jena) and the software AxioVision Release 4.8.1 (Carl Zeiss Imaging Solutions GmbH, Jena). The resulting files were imported into Adobe Illustrator CS5 Release 15.0 (Adobe Systems Incorporated) and digital line drawings were made using a WACOM Intuous digitiser board.

SPACES SGD - Submarine Groundwater Discharge areas off South Africa and its effects on benthic communities

Groundwater/Seawater interaction, as a major form of ocean-land interplay, is associated with two potential pathways of dissolved material transport, namely (1) flux from the marine to the terrestrial environment caused by seawater intrusion into a terrestrial aquifer and (2) flux from a terrestrial aquifer to the coastal ocean manifested as submarine discharging groundwater. During the past two decades, SGD has been recognized as a factor with important environmental and ecological impact on the coastal environment. SGD may be both volumetrically and chemically important to marine ecosystems and chemical budgets.

Our working group will focus on the impact of SGD on marine biota and the possibility of using affected species as SGD indicators. To assess the increase of the ecological significance (magnitude and consequences) of SGD for macrozoobenthic communities due to groundwater-borne nutrients and chemicals SGD sites will be compared with fully marine non-seepage reference sites. Groundwater seeps induce physiological effects on marine species and possibly adaption strategies are developed. Furthermore this study aims to test in which extent freshwater influences biomass and diversity of benthic biota.