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  • kelp forest_Heike

    Long-term changes in coastal ecosystem structure and functions

    Coastal ecosystems are important structural and functional components of the ocean and provide essential services to human well-being, including seafood production, nutrient cycling, recreation and coastal protection. Yet they have been deeply transformed over historical time scales and continue to be altered by multiple human activities. The goal of this research program is to reconstruct long-term changes in marine species and analyze their consequences for ecosystem structure, functions and services. To do so, we use a combination of historical research, field surveys, lab experiments, data synthesis, and ecosystem modeling.


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    Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems Model Inter-comparison Project

    FISH-MIP is the Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Sector of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Inter-comparison Project (ISI-MIP), based at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany. FISH-MIP is an international network of global and regional marine ecosystem modellers aiming to predict the impacts of climate change on marine fisheries and ecosystems.

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    Global Changes in Marine Plankton Diversity and Productivity

    This new international and interdisciplinary working group at the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Germany aims for a large-scale synthesis of changes in the diversity of marine plankton to understand recent trends in global ocean primary production and their consequences for ecosystem structure and the services they provide to humanity.


  • Conservation-Strategies-in-Canadas-Changing-Oceans

    Conservation Strategies in Canada’s Changing Oceans (CHONe II)

    Human need for ocean resources will increase in coming decades, accelerated by economic drivers. Canada must develop scientific knowledge to identify risks and advise on policies to ensure we sustain ocean health, function, and services. The NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe I), a partnership of 15 universities and DFO, delivered marine ecosystem-level science on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in Canada’s three oceans over time and geography. Our new research network on Conservation Strategies in Canada’s Changing Oceans (CHONe II) will apply the results gained to analyze how different management tools and strategies address key ecosystem and biological objectives in Canada’s changing oceans and what measurable benefits and limitations emerge from specific management actions to offset multiple impacts.


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    Transatlantic Ocean System Science & Technology (TOSST)

    The Transatlantic Ocean System Science and Technology (TOSST) Research School educates a new generation of highly-qualified personnel that can address, with advanced science and technology tools, the responsible use and management of the future ocean. The main goal is the creation of a first class, transatlantic education environment to convey technical and research skills in ocean science and advanced technologies, and promote informed management of deep sea and open ocean environments. The research school links two major centres of ocean research on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, in Halifax, Maritime Canada and Kiel, northern Germany, namely, the Helmholtz Research School for Ocean Science and Technology (HOSST).


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    Oceans Past Initiative

    The Oceans Past Initiative (OPI) is a global research network for marine historical research. Our goal is to enhance knowledge and understanding of how the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world’s oceans have changed over the long term to better indicate future changes and possibilities. OPI has grown from the now concluded History of Marine Animal Populations (HMAP) which was part of the Census of Marine Life Programme. Every 2-3 years, OPI organises an Oceans Past Conference where anyone interested in the history of humankind’s interactions with life in the oceans can meet in person to present and debate the implications of the latest research in marine environmental history and historical marine ecology.


Past Projects

  • Past, present and future of marine resources and their supporting ecosystems

    One of today’s greatest environmental concerns is the critical state and uncertain future of marine resources and their supporting ecosystems. Oceans have supported abundant life and intense human use for millennia. However, in a time of fisheries collapses, water pollution, and rapid climate change it is unclear whether people around the world will be able to enjoy healthy seafood, swim in clean coastal waters, and encounter diverse ocean wildlife in the future. As the Canada Research Chair in Marine Renewable Resources from 2006-2016, Heike’s research aimed to unravel the underlying history and causes of the current crisis and to predict its consequences into the future.


  • Ecosystem effects of invertebrate fisheries

    Invertebrate fisheries have rapidly increased and expanded over the past 50 years, and are now important players in global seafood markets and trade. However, for many species there is little assessment and management in place, the ecosystem consequences of their fisheries are poorly understood. This project aimed to evaluate the consequences of invertebrate fisheries on other species in the food web and the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems. We also assessed the trade-offs between invertebrate catches and ecosystem impacts to inform ecosystem-based fisheries management.



  • Extinctions in Ancient and Modern Seas

    This working group at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NCESCent) in Durham, NC brought together paleontologists, archaeologists, historical and modern ecologists to compare, analyze and predict marine extinctions and extinction risk in the fossil, historical and modern record. The group was coordinated by Paul Harnik, Rowan Lockwood, and Seth Finnigan.

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  • Global Shark Abundance Baselines

    This project aimed to develop a baseline of unexploited shark biomass, and detail the effects of fishing (past and present) on the abundance of sharks in various parts of the global ocean.


  • Future of Marine Animal Populations (FMAP)

    FMAP was one of seventeen constituent projects of the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year international research effort involving 2,700 scientists which sought to assess and explain past, present, and future diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. FMAP scientists worked towards describing and synthesizing globally changing patterns of species abundance, distribution, and diversity, and modelled the effects of fishing, climate change and other key variables on those patterns. This work was done across ocean realms and with an emphasis on understanding past changes and predicting future scenarios.


  • History of Marine Animal Populations (HMAP)

    As part of the History of Marine Animal Populations program of the Census of Marine Life, we studied historical examples of population and ecosystem recoveries around the world. Also, in an interdisciplinary effort with archaeologists, historians, and ecologists, we reconstructed the ecological history of human-induced and natural changes in the Wadden Sea, southern North Sea, and the consequences of these changes on diversity, food-web structure, and ecosystem functions and services. HMAP has now grown into the Oceans Past Initiative (OPI;


  • Mediterranean Sharks Project

    The Mediterranean Shark Project was concerned with the decline of shark populations in the Mediterranean Sea over the past two centuries, and the consequences of this loss for the Mediterranean ecosystem. We assessed the magnitude of population declines and current status of sharks in the Mediterranean Sea using a variety of data sources and analytical methods.


  • Historic Reconstruction Project

    The Historic Reconstruction Project was concerned with the long-term history of human-induced changes in estuaries and coastal regions in the United States. We used data from paleontology, archaeology, history, fisheries science, and ecology in order to reconstruct historical baselines for coastal fisheries and their supporting ecosystems, and quantify the magnitude of degradation since pre-Columbian times.


  • Finding common ground in marine conservation and management

    This working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) attempted to bridge divergences between fisheries science and marine ecology by developing a common database and analytical framework for assessing marine fisheries and ecosystem change. We applied this framework to a number of representative marine ecosystems around the globe, and assessed management successes and failures. The group was co-led by Boris Worm (Dalhousie University) and Ray Hilborn (University of Washington).