Federal President Steinmeier with WASCAL Students at the Ocean Science Centre, Mindelo. Photo: Edson Silva Delgado, GEOMAR

International cooperation and the promotion of young talent were the focus of the visit to the West African archipelago.

05.10.2023/Mindelo. During his state visit to Cabo Verde, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier learned about the joint research of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and its partners from Germany and abroad in the region. The programme also included a visit to the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo (OSCM), a research and logistics centre on the island of São Vicente jointly operated by GEOMAR and the Cape Verdean Instituto do Mar (IMar), as well as a meeting with students of the West African Master’s programme “Climate Change and Marine Sciences”, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of WASCAL. In addition to Professor Dr. Katja Matthes, Director of GEOMAR, and Administrative Director Frank Spiekermann, Professor Dr. Otmar Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association, Ministerial Director Stefan Müller, Head of the Department of Research for Fundamentals and Sustainable Development at the BMBF and Chairman of the GEOMAR Board of Trustees, also accompanied the visit.

Located off the coast of West Africa, in an upwelling area in the tropical Atlantic, the Cape Verde Islands are at the heart of one of our most important life support systems. In the archipelago, it becomes visible how the ocean influences our climate, feeds us and secures livelihoods. During astay of several days in the region, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, learned about the research of the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, the Max Planck Society and various universities, which takes place in close cooperation with stakeholders from the region. It is the first official state visit by a German president to Cabo Verde.

“We are very proud to be able to present our excellent research and infrastructure to Federal President Steinmeier together with our Cape Verdean and German partners and to share our vision for future research with him. His visit is a highlight of our cooperation so far, which is characterized by a lively exchange and many valuable personal meetings in Cabo Verde and Kiel,” says Professor Dr. Katja Matthes, Director of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. “Scientific data from the region is an important building block for more accurate forecasts of climate change and its impacts, not only in West Africa, but all over the world. In addition, the ocean offers us numerous opportunities to meet these global challenges and minimize risks. That’s why research institutions from many countries are working hand in hand with regional actors in Cabo Verde.”

As a leading German partner in marine science cooperation, GEOMAR can look back on almost 20 years of cooperation with science, politics and society in Cabo Verde. Together with the Instituto do Mar (IMar) and with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), GEOMAR founded the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo (OSCM) on the Cape Verde island of São Vicente in 2017 as a central platform for field research, knowledge exchange and logistics.

Federal President Steinmeier was convinced of the importance of the OSCM for regional, national and international research during a tour with José Maria Neves, President of the Republic of Cabo Verde. He got to know the infrastructure of the OSCM and learned about the Cape Verde Ocean Observatory (CVOO), which is located about 100 kilometers off the islands, as well as about the research of IMar and the Universidade Técnica do Atlântico (UTA).

In addition, the distinguished visitors met graduates of the master’s programme “Climate Change and Marine Sciences”, which is funded by the BMBF as part of the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL). The courses offered to young people from twelve West African countries are implemented in close cooperation between GEOMAR, UTA and OSCM. It includes lectures, laboratory and field work, as well as training at sea: the WASCAL Floating University. International research and academic education go hand in hand here – an approach that offers students various opportunities for their future career paths in the region. WASCAL Cabo Verde is an official project of the United Nations Decade of Marine Science for Sustainable Development.

In the coming years, a project initiated by GEOMAR will bring together other research institutions in West Africa: The major international project “Future of Tropical Upwelling Regions in the Atlantic Ocean” (FUTURO) is intended to investigate how the natural upwelling area off West Africa, which is extremely important for West Africa’s population, will develop in the course of climate change and how these biologically particularly important upwelling regions in the Atlantic Ocean will develop in the course of climate change and how these will be biologically particularly beneficial. productive and biodiverse region can be protected and managed sustainably. It also investigates health and disease processes in the ocean, which are fundamental for food security and other important functions of the ocean.

“Coastal upwelling areas such as the one off West Africa account for less than one percent of the ocean’s surface area, but provide five percent of the world’s biological productivity and twenty percent of the world’s fisheries yields. Fish is a major contributor to food security in West Africa and covers about 60 percent of animal protein requirements in some countries. At the same time, these regions are threatened by global change in many ways,” explains Professor Dr. Arne Körtzinger, scientific director of the OSCM and coordinator of FUTURO. “In view of this enormous importance and the expected changes, the international large-scale experiment FUTURO is intended to provide the necessary system understanding and a basis for the sustainable use and protection of the coastal upwelling area. The core of this experiment is, on the one hand, close cooperation with international scientists, especially from West Africa, and, on the other hand, a concerted deployment of several international research vessels and a large number of autonomous observation platforms.”

„Der Klimawandel ist eine der größten Herausforderungen unserer Zeit – jenseits von Kontinenten und politischen Systemen. Welche verheerenden Folgen dieser haben kann, sehen wir gerade im globalen Süden, wo Mensch und Umwelt unter den Auswirkungen klimatischer Veränderungen besonders leiden. Dem Klimawandel konsequent entgegentreten können wir nur zusammen mit starken Partnern – lokal und international“, sagt Professor Dr. Otmar Wiestler, Präsident der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft. „Mit der geplanten internationalen FUTURO-Mission gewinnt das GEOMAR vor der Nordwestküste Afrikas künftig wichtige Erkenntnisse, die dazu beitragen werden den Klimawandel besser zu verstehen und innovative Lösungsstrategien zu entwickeln. Sie ist auch ein eindrückliches Beispiel für die strategische Zusammenarbeit mit Partnern aus Afrika.“

The Federal President also visited an observation platform that will help to link ocean and atmospheric research more closely: new remote sensing devices on the roof of the OSCM examine the atmosphere using lasers and radar. They are part of the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory (CVAO), which both presidents visited before the OSCM and laid the foundation stone for a new laboratory building. These investments are part of the BMBF-funded research infrastructure project ACTRIS-D led by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) in Leipzig. This is another important building block for research into the climate system. The CVAO atmospheric station is operated by a consortium consisting of the Cape Verdean Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (INMG), TROPOS, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the University of York in the UK.

“With the successful visit program, we have covered the entire range of our GEOMAR research on the ocean and climate system,” says Professor Dr. Katja Matthes. “The interest and funding from our federal government encourages us and our local partners to continue to pursue our plans for future research with enthusiasm and to contribute to the protection and sustainable use of the ocean through our work, for example as a food source or as a partner in the fight against climate change.” The missions of the German Marine Research Alliance (DAM), which Professor Dr. Katja Matthes also represented as a member of the Executive Board during the visit of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will also benefit from future activities and the close cooperation between science, politics, business and society.

Source: Federal President Steinmeier learns about research on Cabo Verde – GEOMAR – Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel