KüNO Projects
KüNO Projects

MuSSeL: Multiple Stressors on North Sea Life

Short description

Life at the seafloor in the southern North Sea (SNS) is challenged by an array of major stressors comprising geophysical drivers (warming, reduced nutrients from the North Atlantic, alteration of transports) and human activities (e.g., fisheries, offshore wind farms (OWF), riverine nutrients). Their interactions, combined effects and risks to Good Environmental Status of sea floors and to the diversity and functioning of benthic communities are largely uncertain. Our collaborative project MuSSeL develops novel theoretical concepts and builds scenarios of geophysical shifts and anthropogenic activities to map combined responses in the past (1980), present (2015), and future (2050), thereby identifying hot spots of change. MuSSeL merges expertise from research institutions and federal agencies to generate anthropogenic and partially manageable drivers for the SNS, i.e. nutrient input, pollution, dredging and dumping, and demersal fisheries. Our high-resolution coupled modeling investigates climate-driven changes of physics, sediment transport, and biogeochemistry of the SNS. We track how impacts propagate through the marine food web, from pelagic productivity, benthic flora (seagrass), to macrozoobenthos, and finally to demersal fish. We will introduce and test a trait-based approach to predict the response of zoobenthos to multiple stressors based on (known) reactions to single stressors. Projected effects will be condensed to accumulated risk indexes for animal life at the seafloor in terms of trait diversity, ecosystem functions, or food availability for demersal fish. Using agent-based modeling, we will exemplarily resolve adaptive behavior of the fishing industry coping with changing directives, area closures such as OWFs, and distribution of target fish. MuSSeL results will be made accessible through a web-portal. Interaction with relevant institutional stakeholders (as members of the consortium and associated with the project) has guided our selection of stressors and target indexes. Being at the same time members of (inter)national expert groups, the transfer of results to applications and planning will be seamless.

Funding period:

 11/2020 - 10/2023

Funding amount:

 1.400.000,- €


Coordinator: Helmholtz Centre hereon

Project partner:

  • Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH)
  • Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences
  • Thünen-Institute for Sea Fisheries
  • University of Hamburg
   Alfred-Wegener-Institute Helmholtz centre for polar and marine research (AWI)
   Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute


  • Project leader
    Prof. Dr. Kai Wirtz / Prof. Dr. Kay Emeis

    Helmholtz Centre hereon
    Max-Planck-Str. 1
    21502 Geesthacht, Germany
    Phone: +49 (0) 4152 871 513

  • Project coordination
    Dr. Shubham Krishna

    Tel.: +49 4152 87 1558