R01: Our Common Future Ocean

How can sustainability of the uncertain future ocean be conceptualized in a way that can be widely agreed upon and that guides responsible decision-making?

The topic brings together researchers from the disciplines of ethics, economics, arts, political sciences, law and natural marine sciences to develop a concept of ocean sustainability.


The conceptual approach is complemented by analyzing and actively taking part in the societal and scientific discourse on ocean sustainability in different cultures, and by experimentally eliciting sustainability views held by society. The sustainability concept is applied to a range of specific ocean issues including CO2 storage in the ocean or the use of ocean resources. Sustainability has been a key notion in the societal and scientific discourse about the relationship between human societies and nature at least since the UN report ‘Our Common Future’ (WCED 1987). Sustainability has become widely agreed upon as a general and abstract objective, but the practical effect has as yet remained small. A major problem is that it is often unclear what sustainability actually means in a concrete decision context. In particular, the large uncertainties with regard to the future ocean and inevitable ocean change challenge simple concepts of sustainability.

The Brundtland report, for example, considers sustainability to be an attribute of future development (‘sustainable development’). Future development of the oceans, however, is uncertain and foreseeable only to a limited extent, both because of stochastic events and because of our limited knowledge about ocean dynamics. Whether or not the actual development path will satisfy sustainability requirements, such as the maintenance of specific ecosystem services, can only be verified ex post. Thus, pure outcome-based concepts of sustainability, as the one suggested by the Brundtland report, are not applicable under uncertainty. Furthermore, a sustainability concept can only be of practical relevance if it is shared by a large part of society. To this end, it is necessary to increase public and cultural awareness of the effects of ocean change and to take into account the normative views on sustainability held by society.

Future Ocean provided scientific underpinning

  • to develop a concept of ocean sustainability
  • to elicit normative views held in society to verify the concept empirically
  • to explore and advance the artistic perception and interpretation of the cultural impact of ocean change
  • to apply the concept of ocean sustainability to specific issues


Arevalo-Martinez, D. L., Kock, A., Steinhoff, T., Brandt, P., Dengler, M., Fischer, T., Körtzinger, A. and Bange, H. W. (2017) Nitrous oxide during the onset of the Atlantic Cold Tongue Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, 122 (1). pp. 171-184. DOI 10.1002/2016JC012238.

Schütte, F., Karstensen, J., Krahmann, G., Hauss, H., Fiedler, B., Brandt, P., Visbeck, M. and Körtzinger, A. (2016) Characterization of "dead-zone" eddies in the tropical Northeast Atlantic Ocean Biogeosciences (BG), 13 . pp. 5865-5881. DOI 10.5194/bg-13-5865-2016.

Opitz, S., Hoffmann, J., Quaas, M., Matz-Lück, N., Binohlan, C. and Froese, R. (2016) Assessment of MSC-certified fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic Marine Policy, 71 . pp. 10-14. DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2016.05.003.

Ma, X., Jing, Z., Chang, P., Liu, X., Montuoro, R., Small, R. J., Bryan, F. O., Greatbatch, R. J., Brandt, P., Wu, D., Lin, X. and Wu, L. (2016) Western boundary currents regulated by interaction between ocean eddies and the atmosphere Nature, 535 (7613). pp. 533-537. DOI 10.1038/nature18640.

Hu, M. Y. A., Michael, K., Kreiss, C. M., Stumpp, M., Dupont, S., Tseng, Y. C. and Lucassen, M. (2016) Temperature Modulates the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Intestinal Ion Transport in Atlantic Cod, Gadus morhua Frontiers in Physiology, 7 (Art. Nr. 198). DOI 10.3389/fphys.2016.00198.

Rickels, W., Dovern, J., Hoffmann, J., Quaas, M. F., Schmidt, J. O. and Visbeck, M. (2016) Indicators for Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals: An Application to Oceanic Development in the European Union Earth's Future, 4 (5). pp. 252-267. DOI 10.1002/2016EF000353.

Dumke, I., Burwicz, E. B., Berndt, C., Klaeschen, D., Feseker, T., Geissler, W. and Sarkar, S. (2016) Gas hydrate distribution and hydrocarbon maturation north of the Knipovich Ridge, western Svalbard margin Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 121 (3). pp. 1405-1424. DOI 10.1002/2015JB012083.

Bertram, C. and Quaas, M. (2016) Biodiversity and Optimal Multi-species Ecosystem Management Environmental and Resource Economics . pp. 1-30. DOI 10.1007/s10640-015-9988-8.

Hu, M. Y. A., Guh, Y. J., Shao, Y. T., Kuan, P. L., Chen, G. L., Lee, J. R., Jeng, M. S. and Tseng, Y. C. (2016) Strong Ion Regulatory Abilities Enable the Crab Xenograpsus testudinatus to Inhabit Highly Acidified Marine Vent Systems Frontiers in Physiology, 7 . DOI 10.3389/fphys.2016.00014.

Michael, K., Kreiss, C. M., Hu, M. Y., Koschnick, N., Bickmeyer, U., Dupont, S., Pörtner, H. O. and Lucassen, M. (2016) Adjustments of molecular key components of branchial ion and pH regulation in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in response to ocean acidification and warming Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 193 . pp. 33-46. DOI 10.1016/j.cbpb.2015.12.006.

Baumgärtner, S., Drupp, M. A. and Quaas, M. (2015) Subsistence, Substitutability and Sustainability in Consumption Environmental and Resource Economics . pp. 1-20. DOI 10.1007/s10640-015-9976-z.

Stumpp, M., Hu, M. Y. A., Tseng, Y. C., Guh, Y. J., Chen, Y. C., Yu, J. K., Su, Y. H. and Hwang, P. P. (2015) Evolution of extreme stomach pH in bilateria inferred from gastric alkalization mechanisms in basal deuterostomes Scientific Reports, 5 (10421). DOI 10.1038/srep10421.

Aswathy, N., Boucher, O., Quaas, M., Niemeier, U., Muri, H., Muelmenstaedt, J. and Quaas, J. (2015) Climate extremes in multi-model simulations of stratospheric aerosol and marine cloud brightening climate engineering Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 15 (16). pp. 9593-9610.

Blenckner, T., Llope, M., Moellmann, C., Voss, R., Quaas, M., Casini, M., Lindegren, M., Folke, C. and Stenseth, N. C. (2015) Climate and fishing steer ecosystem regeneration to uncertain economic futures Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 282 (1803).

Neumann, B., Vafeidis, A., Zimmermann, J. and Nicholls, R. J. (2015) Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding - A Global Assessment Plos One, 10 (3).

Visbeck, M., Kronfeld-Goharani, U., Neumann, B., Rickels, W., Schmidt, J., van Doorn, E., Matz-Lück, N. and Proelss, A. (2014) A sustainable development goal for the ocean and Coasts: Global ocean challenges benefit from regional initiatives supporting globally coordinated solutions Marine Policy, 49 . pp. 87-89. DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2014.02.010.

Visbeck, M., Kronfeld-Goharani, U., Neumann, B., Rickels, W., Schmidt, J., van Doorn, E., Matz-Lück, N., Ott, K. and Quaas, M. (2014) Securing Blue Wealth: The Need for a Special Sustainable Development Goal for the Ocean and Coasts Marine Policy, 48 . pp. 184-191. DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2014.03.005.

Rickels, W., Quaas, M. and Visbeck, M. (2014) How healthy is the human-ocean system? Environmental Research Letters, 9 (4). 044013. DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/9/4/044013.

Dumke, I., Berndt, C., Crutchley, G. J., Krause, S., Liebetrau, V., Gay, A. and Couillard, M. (2014) Seal bypass at the Giant Gjallar Vent (Norwegian Sea): indications for a new phase of fluid venting at a 56-Ma-old fluid migration system Marine Geology, 351 . pp. 38-52. DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2014.03.006.

Bahr, G. and Requate, T. (2014) Reciprocity and Giving in a Consecutive Three-Person Dictator Game with Social Interaction German Economic Review, 15 (3). pp. 374-392.

Doepke, L. K. and Requate, T. (2014) The economics of exploiting gas hydrates Energy Economics, 42 . pp. 355-364.

Jakoby, O., Quaas, M., Mueller, B., Baumgaetner, S. and Frank, K. (2014) How do individual farmers' objectives influence the evaluation of rangeland management strategies under a variable climate? Journal of Applied Ecology, 51 (2). pp. 483-493.

Loy, J. P., Glauben, T., Requate, T. and Weiss, C. R. (2014) A Sealed-bid Double Auction Experiment on German Milk Quota Exchanges Journal of Agricultural Economics, 65 (2). pp. 420-445.

Lukomska, N., Quaas, M. and Baumgaertner, S. (2014) Bush encroachment control and risk management in semi-arid rangelands Journal of Environmental Management, 145 . pp. 24-34.

Normann, H. T., Requate, T. and Waichman, I. (2014) Do short-term laboratory experiments provide valid descriptions of long-term economic interactions? A study of Cournot markets Experimental Economics, 17 (3). pp. 371-390.

Olbrich, R., Quaas, M. and Baumgaertner, S. (2014) Personal Norms of Sustainability and Farm Management Behavior Sustainability, 6 (8). pp. 4990-5017.

Papaioannou, E., Vafeidis, A., Quaas, M., Schmidt, J. and Strehlow, H. V. (2014) Using indicators based on primary fisheries' data for assessing the development of the German Baltic small-scale fishery and reviewing its adaptation potential to changes in resource abundance and management during 2000-09 Ocean & Coastal Management, 98 . pp. 38-50.

Thebaud, O., Innes, J., Doyen, L., Lample, M., Macher, C., Mahevas, S., Mullon, C., Planque, B., Quaas, M., Smith, T. and Vermard, Y. (2014) Building ecological-economic models and scenarios of marine resource systems: Workshop report Marine Policy, 43 . pp. 382-386.

Voss, R., Quaas, M., Schmidt, J. and Hoffmann, J. (2014) Regional trade-offs from multi-species maximum sustainable yield (MMSY) management options Marine Ecology Progress Series, 498 . pp. 1-12.

Voss, R., Quaas, M., Schmidt, J., Tahvonen, O., Lindegren, M. and Moellmann, C. (2014) Assessing Social - Ecological Trade-Offs to Advance Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management PLoS ONE, 9 (9).

Waichman, I., Requate, T. and Siang, C. K. (2014) Communication in Cournot competition: An experimental study Journal of Economic Psychology, 42 . pp. 1-16.

Priede, I. G. and Froese, R. (2013) Colonization of the deep sea by fishes Journal of Fish Biology, 83 (6). pp. 1528-1550. DOI 10.1111/jfb.12265.

Brown, S., Nicholls, R. J., Woodroffe, C. D., Hanson, S., Hinkel, J., Kebebe, A. S., Neumann, B. and Vafeidis, A. T. (2013) Sea-level rise impact and responses: A global perspective. In: Coastal Hazards ; 6 . Springer Netherlands, pp. 117-150. DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5234-4_5.

Fischer, M., Wahl, M. and Friedrichs, G. (2013) Field Sensor for In-Situ Detection Of Marine Bacterial Biofilms : Novel Sensor Concept Enables Time-Resolved Detection of Bacteria from initial attachement to mature cell clusters Sea Technology, 54 (2). pp. 49-52.

Froese, R. and Quaas, M. (2013) Rio+20 and the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in Europe Marine Policy, 39 . pp. 53-55.

Quaas, M. F., van Soest, D. and Baumgartner, S. (2013) Complementarity, impatience, and the resilience of natural-resource-dependent economies Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 66 (1). pp. 15-32.

Schuerch, M., Vafeidis, A. T., Slawig, T. and Temmerman, S. (2013) Modeling the influence of changing storm patterns on the ability of a salt marsh to keep pace with sea level rise Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, 118 (1). pp. 84-96.

Tahvonen, O., Quaas, M., Schmidt, J. and Voss, R. (2013) Optimal Harvesting of an Age-Structured Schooling Fishery Environmental & Resource Economics, 54 (1). pp. 21-39. DOI 10.1007/s10640-012-9579-x.

Visbeck, M., Kronfeld-Goharani, U., Neumann, B., Rickels, W., Schmidt, J. and van Doorn, E. (2013) Establishing a Sustainable Development Goal for Oceans and Coasts to Face the Challenges of our Future Ocean . Kiel Working Paper, 1847 . Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Kiel, Germany, 22 pp.

Appelhans, Y., Thomsen, J., Pansch, C., Melzner, F. and Wahl, M. (2012) Sour times: seawater acidification effects on growth, feeding behaviour and acid–base status of Asterias rubens and Carcinus maenas Marine Ecology Progress Series, 459 . pp. 85-98. DOI 10.3354/meps09697.

Fischer, M., Wahl, M. and Friedrichs, G. (2012) Design and field application of a UV-LED based optical fiber biofilm sensor Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 33 (1). pp. 172-178. DOI 10.1016/j.bios.2011.12.048.

Brandt, P., Funk, A., Hormann, V., Dengler, M., Greatbatch, R. J. and Toole, J. M. (2011) Interannual atmospheric variability forced by the deep equatorial Atlantic Ocean Nature, 473 (7348). pp. 497-500. DOI 10.1038/nature10013.