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SD Research Topics


Hydrodynamics and sediment transport from coast to deep seas - dunes, tidal depositional systems, contourite drifts and turbidity currents


Under the action of moving water, sediment may be entrained, transported and deposited. This forms varied seafloor morphologies and may be recorded as stratigraphy in the seabed. We study the interaction between hydrodynamic forcings (such as river flows, tidal currents, ocean currents and internal waves) and a range of morphologies (such as underwater dunes, tidal depositional systems, contourite drifts and submarine channels) in order to better understand and predict how sediment dynamics shapes the seabed and controls the characteristics of the accumulated particles. This research has important implications for paleoceanographic reconstructions, geohazards (e.g., coastal erosion, navigation, offshore infrastructure), carbon cycling and sequestration and benthic ecosystems.

For more information please contact:

Elda Miramontes, Alice Lefebvre, Marcello Gugliotta

Human impacts - offshore infrastructure and microplastic pollution

The importance of marine systems for human society has strongly increased in the last years. One aspect is the need of space with suitable wind fields to achieve a carbon free and sustainable future on our planet. The development of offshore renewable energy is a prominent example. At MARUM, we analyze the geological and geotechnical characteristics of potential sites for offshore wind farms. We develop and bring to market innovative underwater technology and examine the seabed properties under static and dynamic load.

Increased human activities also enhance the amount of litter that reaches the marine environment. We investigate the processes that control the transport and accumulation of plastics in sediments, particularly microplastics, in order to better predict their main zones of accumulation and better assess their potential hazard.

For more information please contact:

Tobias Mörz, Elda Miramontes, Marcello Gugliotta


Cold-water coral ecosystems and mounds

Cold-water corals (CWCs) form widespread and diverse benthic deep-sea ecosystems. Their well-being is highly dependent on seafloor dynamics, as they rely on a continuous supply of food and sediment from turbulent bottom currents. On time scales of >103 years, CWC reefs develop into large seabed structures called coral mounds, which modulate sediment dynamics by locally accelerating currents, stabilizing slopes, and promoting sediment deposition. CWCs provide multiple ecosystem services (e.g., refuge for commercially attractive fish species) and likely play a crucial role in the global carbonate cycle.

For more information please contact:

Dierk Hebbeln, Claudia Wienberg, André Freiwald

Mud volcanoes, cold seeps and hot vents: fluid chemistry and morphology

Mud volcanoes, often associated with cold seeps, tap deeply into the Earth (up to several kilometers) and represent a window to regions inaccessible for sampling, sometimes as deep as crustal level or serpentinized mantle. The same accounts for hot vents, which funnel devolatizing magmatic fluids from the geosphere back to the hydrosphere. Despite the different origin, all of these fluxes are important for global element cycling and hence also supply crucial nutrients for very specialized seafloor ecosystems.

For more information please contact:

Gerhard Bohrmann, Wolfgang Bach, Simone Kasemann


Earthquakes, volcanic flank collapses and landslides

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are among the most destructive geohazards and are also often associated with subsequent large scaled gravitational mass movements. In addition, all of these processes have the potential to generate harmful tsunami whose far-reaching effects can threaten even distant coasts. Particularly due to their cascading nature, these processes represent major geohazards in the marine environment. To gain a deeper insight into both the underlying geological processes and their interplay, and thus also to identify potential precursors, MARUM scientists investigate various geohazardous processes from slow slip earthquakes, volcanic island flank collapses to submarine landslides. To tackle these chal­lenges they develop and utilize cutting edge geotechnical lab ex­per­i­ments, long-term in-situ multi-parametrize monitoring systems and newest com­puter process simulation techniques.

For more information please contact:

Katrin Huhn, Matt Ikari, Achim Kopf

Fluid flow and gashydrate processes – monitoring

Both active and passive continental margins represent loci of substantial fluid flow as well as degradation of organic matter. This is often associated with the (temporal) formation of clathrates, sports manifestations such as seepage sites along fault traces and discontinuities, which fuel unique ecosystems but at the same time represent a marine hazard. Gas hydrate dissociation in particular is governed by fluid flow at depth but also climate change, and monitoring is a key task to assess the risk of slope failures, massive gas release, and associated processes (tsunamis, etc.).

For more information please contact:

Achim Kopf, Gerhard Bohrmann


Mantle-crust-sediment dynamics

Rifted margins and oceanic spreading centers display a great variety of tectonic architectures, crustal compositions and hydrothermal systems. How the processes that shape these environments interact is crucial to understand the biological communities they host and element cycling within and across the ocean floor. To this end we use a wide range of data and numerical simulations to understand how tectonics, sedimentation, magmatism, serpentinisation and hydrothermal flow shape these environments.

For more information please contact:

Marta Pérez Gussinyé

Role of ocean crust processes for H2 production and CO2 removal

The interaction of seawater with rocks in the ocean floor provides two pathways to remediate climate change. Serpentinisation of mantle rocks, which is extensive at slow and ultra-slow ridges, naturally produces H2. In addition, carbonation of serpentinised mantle and basaltic crust in the flanks of oceanic spreading centers can trap CO2 over geological times. Using experiments and numerical modelling, we study the processes and rates of H2 formation and CO2 removal in the ocean floor to assess their potential for upholding climate change.

For more information please contact:

Wolfgang Bach, Marta Peréz Gussinyé, Achim Kopf