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Bilateral and multilateral co-operation in marine research
The primary aims of the four-day workshop on the topic of marine research were to present previous areas of research and foster co-operation projects with the partner country. South African marine researchers firstly presented their key research focuses, and the specifications for new joint research with German colleagues were defined in the subsequent discussions. Further co-operation projects came about as a result of the existing bilateral initiatives GENUS and SPACES, which are each under way in Africa with the different key focuses of geoscience and climate research.
More than sixty renowned marine scientists met in Cape Town on 3-6 December 2012 to discuss new international co-operation in joint research efforts. The event was organised by the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS) and the Bremen-based Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT). During the event, the participants from ten South African and ten German research institutes and universities and their Norwegian colleagues discussed new research topics that are to be worked on in South Africa’s coastal and shelf areas.
Dr Werner Ekau of ZMT declared it to be an all-round success and a further enhancement of research ties: "Germany has been involved in marine research in southern Africa for several decades. The experience gained and the available expertise form a valuable basis for our collaboration with South Africa in developing methods and models. By researching processes and correlations in ecosystems at a local level, we are learning to understand global processes better. Within this, international collaboration is one of the most important disciplines in enabling us to do meaningful work on global issues such as climate change, ocean acidification or rising sea levels."
The four-day workshop focussed on research projects on the west and east coasts of South Africa. The physical characteristics of the ocean such as currents, temperature, oxygen and nutrient content were first introduced in the various presentations by researchers, which were followed by discussion of how these influence biological processes. The influence of the climate on the fishing industry, the health of the ecosystems and the quality of life among the coastal population were also presented.
According to Dr Neville Sweijd, the director of ACCESS, South Africa’s geographical location and its natural marine resources are attractive incentives for collaboration with international scientists. "We are seeing a growing interest in investigation of physical and ecological processes in our coastal and deep sea areas as case studies in global research projects. The South African government and research institutes have made major investments in our research programmes; commissioning of the research icebreaker SAS Agulhas II is an excellent example of this."
The aim of the workshop was to develop specific research projects that also incorporate training initiatives. In addition to this, it also strengthened the international co-operation between scientists. Planning is also under way for a reciprocal visit to Germany by the South Africans. A further workshop will be held in April at ZMT in Bremen. This is intended to pick up from the success of the first meeting and continue expanding on the marine research co-operation projects.