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About Topic 4


Topic 4 develops multi-use scenarios for sustainable coastal systems with climate change to enhance our understanding and to support science-based decision-making. Considering international frameworks and agreements such as the SDGs, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement, Topic 4 research focuses on the process understanding of energy and matter fluxes across compartments, their impacts on ecosystems functioning and ultimately on human societies. The ambitious integrated systems approach includes single and multiple stressors or drivers, considering the influence of human activities and climate change. New scientific evidence will contribute to identifying trade-offs in the system, informing decision-makers and will support the development of new and enhanced governance structures.

Our focus:

Coastal systems are also rapidly and, in some cases, catastrophically changing - forced by climatic, environmental and socio-economic drivers. There is an urgency to limit climate change and to adapt to future states of the coasts (Paris Agreement), reduce the risk for human communities and their coast-dependent livelihoods (Sendai Framework), and to plan for a future and sustainable state of the coasts characterized by increasing and accelerated urbanization (SDGs). Furthermore, the EU's 'Blue Growth' strategy and other sectorial ambitions require the sustainable development of coastal systems with its high potential for sustaining jobs and economic development. Linking international policy to local action is critical to achieving healthy coastal systems in the future.
Topic 4 will initiate and further develop platforms and methods for integrated observation, predictive modeling tools, and novel system-analysis. T4 establishes science-based information streams and packages for different plausible and desirable future states of coastal systems. These will support specific management decisions and coastal system governance. The analysis is not limited to single stressors and drivers but uses novel approaches to address the entire system dynamics and integrate the effects and feedback of human needs and activities as part of the coastal system. lt studies the continuum of climate - environment - organism - ecosystems to the entire coastal habitat, including anthropogenic impacts and societal needs across spatial scales, while considering the past, present and future.

The development of pathways towards the desired futures is intended to inform multi-level decision- and policymaking in the pubic and private sectors. It will consider common and global policy benchmarks, e.g. the IPCC scenarios for a 1.5°C or 2°C warmer world. This Topic creates research framework within which the potential risk resulting from actions along the pathways, including consequences for marine resource utilization, offshore energy production, marine aquaculture, and water quality will be considered.

Recent Highlights

Microplastics – Conducting research and raising social awareness

Between 19 and 21 million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s waters every year. The trend has been rising strongly over the last decade. To meet the challenge and to solve these environmental problems, creating a broad societal awareness of the plastic litter and microplastics issue is crucial. Therefore, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon has now developed a digital platform about plastic pollution and related topics


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