Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Marine Diversity and Experimental Ecology

Our research is centred around elucidating the processes and causal relationships within biodiversity and habitats, oceanography, over biogeochemistry and species to ecosystems, environmentally hazardous substances and (micro)plastics and their effects in marine areas.

We provide research-based consultancy on nature restoration projects, monitoring and designation of protected areas, effects of infrastructure projects, Red List species and non-native species, as well as technical assistance in relation to the national and international management of marine directives, for example by participating in international working groups.

We strive to understand the structure and function of marine ecosystems and how these are affected by natural variations and human activities such as, for example, fishing, raw materials utilisation and emission of nutrients and environmentally hazardous substances.

We conduct research into and advise on how wind farms and other space-intensive activities change physical habitats, how the growing ship traffic may contribute to introducing non-native species that may gain a foothold in our marine areas, and how the future climate and warmer seawater will affect the marine ecosystems in interaction with other pressure factors.


Research Topics in brief

Habitat at 20 m's depth on the stone reef "Den Kinesiske Mur". Photo: Karsten Dahl
Habitat at 20 m's depth on the stone reef "Den Kinesiske Mur". Photo: Karsten Dahl

Marine nutrient cycle

Køge Bugt 6. august 2003 taget af Eskadrille 721 ©
Køge Bugt 6. august 2003 taget af Eskadrille 721 ©

An important field of research is biogeochemical processes linked to the nutrient cycle in the marine environment. The work includes both laboratory and field studies as well as analyses of large amounts of data from the Danish nation-wide environmental monitoring programme. Our focus is on the nutrient cycle, oxygen balances and the importance of dissolved organic matter for light conditions. The process studies contribute to the development and use of dynamic and statistical models in, for example, risk assessments and scenario analyses, which support management related to nutrients, marine tools and effects of climate change.

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Marine biodiversity and habitats

Photo: Karsten Dahl ©
Photo: Karsten Dahl ©

We endeavour to identify and quantify the importance of different factors for marine biodiversity and habitat quality. We identify species and explore their ability to adapt. Key topics are interaction and feedback mechanisms between habitats and pressure factors such as eutrophication, environmentally hazardous substances, fishing and the effects of climate change. A large part of this work is based on the collection, analysis and reporting of monitoring data, mapping, development of state assessment tools for marine habitats and the establishment of new knowledge about pressure factors and their effects. The work also includes the development and testing of new technologies such as eDNA, ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) and drones. Another focus area is the spread of native and invasive species and their distribution patterns in interaction with man-made environmental changes.

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Ecotoxicology and environmental chemistry

By working with trace metals, environmentally hazardous substances and marine waste (including microplastics), we develop analytical methods to measure different matrices and gain knowledge about sources, distribution and processes that may have an impact on the occurrence, fate and effects on and risk to organisms in marine ecosystems. Development of biomarkers will also allow us to assess hormone disturbances and other relevant biological effects of environmentally hazardous substances. The work also includes the development and use of monitoring and assessment tools, including indicators, to shed light on the importance of environmentally hazardous substances and marine waste, including spatial and temporal trends and coupling to models to increase our understanding of processes.

 

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Monitoring and environmental management

Under water / Photo: Karsten Dahl ©
Under water / Photo: Karsten Dahl ©

We are responsible for the national monitoring of macroalgae and fauna in stone reefs, a task that requires extensive knowledge of species, their environment and mutual interaction. Monitoring of environmentally hazardous substances in organisms and sediments and assessment of the effects of environmentally hazardous substances on fish are other core activities. We assist authorities with the development of natural and environmental indicators and professional consultancy to support the management of our marine areas, for example in connection with the Habitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Directive.

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