Nitrogen is one of the basic and essential elements for all living organisms both in the terrestrial and marine realm. In the oceans nitrogen is commonly found as dissolved inorganic matter such as nitrate, nitrite or ammonia. As limiting nutrient in many regions nitrogen availability thus controls and regulates primary production, i.e. the growth of phytoplankton (algae) - the basis of the food web. As part of the GENUS project scientists from the University of Hamburg and the Helmholtz Center in Geesthacht are investigating uptake and release processes as well as sinks and sources for nitrogen-bearing compounds in order to understand the ecosystem structure of the Namibian Upwelling System.
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GENUS (Geochemistry and Ecology of the Namibian Upwelling System) aims to clarify relationships between climate change, biogeochemical cycles, and ecosystem structure in the large marine ecosystem of the northern Benguela/Namibian Coast (sout-west Africa). The coastal upwelling system has high seasonal and interannual variability in atmospheric forcing, in properties of water masses on the shelf offshore the Republic of Namibia, and in oxygen supply and demand on the shelf. In consequence, concentrations and ratios of nutrients in upwelling water and their CO2-content have steep gradients in space and time. In the past, significant and economically severe changes in ecosystem structure have occurred which are in part attributed to changes in physical forcing, translated to the ecosystem by oxygen dynamics.
The GENUS project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and is an endorsed project of the Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER)