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Kiel University

Institute for Ecosystem Research

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Polar Ecology


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The Arctic and Antarctic are still among Earth‘s least investigated regions, as they are characterized by extreme environmental conditions and are difficult to access. The effects of climatic and ecological processes taking place in these remote areas are not confined to the high latitudes but have global significance.

At the same time, the climate-driven environmental changes, such as warming, sea-ice decline, and ocean acidification, are particularly fast and pronounced around the poles, particularly the Arctic. Since exploration and exploitation of polar resources, and the resulting threats to polar habitats, will very likely increase in the future, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of the ecology of the highly adapted and presumably sensitive organisms and communities inhabiting the Arctic and Antarctic.

photoIn our department we continue the research of the Institute for Polar Ecology (IPÖ) of Kiel University that was closed in 2013. The marine ecological investigations are currently focussing on seabed habitats (benthos) of polar seas, where the fauna is more abundant and diverse than the extreme ambient conditions seem to allow. This is primarily due to the strong coupling between the benthos and pelagic (water-column) and sympagic (sea-ice) systems through the sedimentation and advection of organic matter produced in the water column and the sea ice to the seabed. This process is of great ecological significance because of the high seasonal variation and overall relatively small amount of food available to the benthos at high latitudes. Therefore, the interrelationships between the processes in the water column, in the sea ice and at the seafloor are the overarching topic of our research. Geographically, we focus on investigations in the Arctic Laptev Sea and the Antarctic Weddell Sea.

photoFields of interest of the terrestrial working group are soil microbiota (bacteria, algae and fungi). Main focus is on microscopic approaches and image analyses to estimate soil microbial biomass with respect to differentiations into autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms. Field studies also include investigations on CO2 flux measurements, as well as botanical and zoological analyses of distributions of plants and microfauna. Current work is done in cooperation with institutes of the Faculty of Agriculture and the International Center of Kiel University, within a project funded by the DAAD.

A link to the literature database of the IPÖ extlink can be found here, encompassing publications from members of the institute since 1982 extlink.

The department houses the editorial office of Polar Biology extlink.

Topics of polar ecology are taught in classes for students of biology (BSc), biological oceanography (MSc), soil science (MSc) and environmental management (MSc).







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Responsible for this page: dkramer(at)ecology.uni-kiel.de, Phone: 0431-880-4601