From July 19 to 23, 2021, around 1,200 participants discuss the importance of and threats to coral reefs. At the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), they discuss the latest findings and how to better protect these important ecosystems. Because, globally, less than 30 percent of coral reefs remain in a comparably good condition. Why is the University of Bremen organizing the ICRS? Because Bremen State is a scientific hub in marine research.
The ICRS is by far the most important international conference dealing with coral reef ecosystems. Since 1967, participants have usually met every four years and include researchers who present their current scientific findings, but also participants from the fields of costal management, environmental protection, and politics. The current conference holds particular importance as we are experiencing a global coral reef crisis. The existence of these ecosystems is endangered. The main causes are climate change, overfishing, and pollution of the oceans.
For the first time in its 50-year history, the ICRS is being held in Europe – in Germany – in Bremen. The marine researcher Professor Christian Wild from the University of Bremen successfully applied to the International Coral Reef Society to organize the ICRS. Hosting the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium in Europe also to demonstrate that the European countries are taking on responsibility. After all, it is the industrial countries with their high CO2 emissions, which are the main contributors to the climate crisis.
With his Marine Ecology working group, Christian Wild has been dealing with the topic of sensitive ecosystems for several years. “The current numbers portray a dramatic situation,” says the scientist. In 2016, around 30 percent of the stony corals along the Australian Great Barrier Reef were victims of the most recent large case of coral bleaching. Shortly before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in February / March 2020, the stony corals in the South of the Great Barrier Reef, which had previously been largely spared from coral death, bleached out over a large area. Thus, the threatening situation, for the reef with its 2,600 kilometers – the largest coral reef on the planet – is further aggravated, according to Wild. “Globally, 30 percent of our coral reefs have disappeared, 40 percent are in grave danger, and only 30 percent remain in a comparably good condition.”
Bremen Is a Scientific Hub in Marine Research
Christian Wild is not the only one who works in marine research in Bremen. The region has a wealth of expertise in marine research and an excellent network of partners. At the university, the neighboring non-academic institutions at the Bremen Technology Park, and throughout the region, researchers in oceanography and environmental physics, marine geosciences, marine biology and chemistry are collaborating across disciplines. Legal sciences, social sciences, and humanities are also closely linked to the field of marine research. Marine, polar and climate research are high-profile areas at the University of Bremen, and are strategically promoted. MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen is the home of the “The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface” Cluster of Excellence. Here, researchers cooperate closely not only with local institutions but also with international partners. Such a range of expertise at one location is unparalleled in marine sciences in Germany and is only realized at very few locations worldwide. Coral reef research highlights this and various actors from the University of Bremen participate in it – for example the BreMarE – Bremen Marine Ecology and MARUM. Other Bremen-based non-university institutions also deal with coral reefs, such as the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI), and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. They all contribute to the shaping of the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Bremen through delegates in the organizing committee.
New Concept for the 14th ICRS Because of the COVID-19-Pandemic
Originally, it was planned for the 14th ICRS to take place in Bremen last year in July. The symposium had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The ICRS conference organization team from the University of Bremen subsequently developed a new concept under the lead of Professor Christian Wild: A solely digital event with the name “14th ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL” which is to take place over five days. Additionally, a face-to-face event – as was originally planned – is to take place in Bremen under the name “15th ICRS 2022 IN-PERSON” from July 3 to 8, 2022. In conclusion, the University of Bremen as organizer now hosts two global coral reef conferences.
Talks and Exhibitions in Bremen in 2021
To draw attention to the importance of and threats to coral reefs, the ICRS organizing team is planning numerous events in Bremen this year and next, with the support of the following partners: the Übersee Museum Bremen, the House of Science, the DEEPWAVE ocean conservation organization, and the Science Notes magazine. Übersee Museum Bremen The exhibition “Coral Reefs – Diverse. Vulnerable. Lost?” has already been on display since May this year. Until July 10, 2022, visitors can learn everything they ever wanted to know about the importance of coral reefs for the oceans and about the threats these face from overfishing, pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification. There is also information on effective conservation strategies. The exhibition is bilingual (English/German) and thus well worth a visit for international guests to Bremen. The Übersee Museum Bremen and the ICRS 2021 organization team of the University of Bremen jointly curated it. Accompanying the exhibition, on September 21, 2021, the expert author Heinz Krimmer will give a talk on “How corals are changing our world.”
Virtual Evening Event
The Science Notes magazine invites you to another special virtual event in the evening of November 4, 2021, aimed primarily at young audiences: “What to do about the coral reef crisis?” Professor Christian Wild and Dr. Carin Jantzen from “SECORE INTERNATIONAL – give coral reefs a future” will provide information and engage in discussion.
Further information on the coral reef conference is available here: www.icrs2021.de
Further information on Professor Christian Wild’s area of work at the University of Bremen is available here: www.uni-bremen.de/marine-ecology