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Our mission

Based on a variety of modelling efforts and the knowledge of key actors, we will explore possible adaptation measures and derive recommendations on governance in order to reduce the risk of tipping point impacts on the regional economy and increase the resilience of Peru's coastal communities.

Work and study with us

The interdisciplinary orientation of the project offers students and doctoral students from various disciplines the opportunity to write their thesis in one of the relevant fields. The DAAD's PROMOS programme offers support for research stays as part of the Bachelor's or Master's thesis.

Discover // Engage

Find further publications about our research!

Adapt or perish

Adapt or perish

Climate change alters coastal fisheries and society in Peru

Climate change has a direct impact on one of the most important fish areas in the world. Ecological, social and economic dynamics are closely linked in the Humboldt upwelling area like in hardly any other region on earth. Around eight per cent of the global catch of marine resources come from the coasts of Peru. Around 80 per cent of the total catch is exported as fishmeal and fish oil as main ingredients of aquaculture feed, for example to China and Norway.


Declining fish stocks cause local and global impacts

"In particular, the consequences for the global fishing economy are difficult to address without adaptation strategies that are both co-developed and subsequently supported by local user groups," says Professor Marie-Catherine Riekhof, director of the Center for Ocean and Society of the Kiel Marine Science (KMS) research priority area at Kiel University and coordinator of the Humboldt-Tipping project, which explicitly takes a holistic and transdisciplinary approach. Together with Peruvian scientific partners, researchers from Hamburg, Bremen and Kiel have built up a network of fishers, associations, municipalities and user groups from aquaculture and tourism and have developed methods with them on site to be able to adapt to the changing conditions. The initial basis for the work was the analysis of potential effects of a change in the nitrogen cycle in the Humboldt upwelling area. Inorganic nitrogen is a key nutrient that limits the growth of phytoplankton in many marine ecosystems. 

"However, our model analyses show that changes in plankton have far less impact on the productivity of fish stocks than expected. Rather, the results suggest that offspring survival and changes in the habitat itself have a major impact on stock fluctuations," says Dr. Mariana Hill from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, who had been working on possible biogeochemical tipping points in the Humboldt-Tipping project.

Ecosystem models were also created and climate projections were analyzed to make predictions about tipping points and future climate conditions. The projections show possible collapse or decline of some key species such as anchovy, but also steady changes such as near-surface warming in the Humboldt upwelling area.


No signs of abrupt habitat tipping points - adaptation still possible

"We currently see no signs of tipping points of the entire ecosystem," says Dr. Giovanni Romagnoni from the Center for Ocean and Society of the Kiel Marine Science (KMS) research centre at CAU. "The rather gradual decline in species diversity at the same time suggests that new species may be able to occupy the niches of those for which we have to predict collapse due to climate change, and thus take over their ecological role," says marine biologist Romagnoni, who recently moved from the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research to Kiel University.

In order to investigate the effects of different management options for dealing with tipping points, one of the work packages in Humboldt-Tipping created a conceptual framework, the so-called "Window of Tipping Point Analysis (WTPA)". With this, the different stakeholders can explore their options to act. "Good institutional frameworks can play a decisive role in mitigating negative consequences or even turning them into positive ones. In the second phase of Humboldt-Tipping, we want to concretize these adaptation strategies to the changing environmental conditions," says project coordinator Riekhof.

Virtual exhibition and educational platform presents four years of research at the Peruvian coast

The results of the project are presented in a virtual exhibition that was developed by Dr. Frederike Tirre from the Center for Ocean and Society of the Kiel Marine Science (KMS) research priority area at Kiel University. Tirre, responsible for research-based outreach and science communication in the first phase of the Humboldt Tipping Project, explains: “Visitors can explore life in and at the Humboldt Current and the various habitats in the ocean in a 3-D model and immerse themselves in the various topics in a playful way. The exhibition aims to create a feeling for the complexity of this significant system and shows how closely we, in Germany and Europe, are also connected to the upwelling area of the Humboldt Current off the coast of Peru."

Visitors will have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive overview of the area and its importance on a global scale. Those who want to learn more will also find further material on the exhibition topics, such as fisheries, sustainability, climate change and the Humboldt Current itself, in the section of information packages. Scientific posters, presentations, reports, interviews and all short films produced during the project can be found there as well. The virtual exhibition is online and freely accessible as a browser version in English, Spanish and German.

Link to the virtual exhibition:

Link to original press release:

Germany and Peru Unite for the Humboldt Tipping Project:

Germany and Peru Unite for the Humboldt Tipping Project:

A Comprehensive Review of the Last Four Years and an Outlook for the Upcoming Second Phase

Visitors will then have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive overview of the field and its importance on a global scale. The virtual exhibition will continue to provide a valuable resource for learning more about this important research during the second phase of the project. At the same time, the exhibition will continue to grow and map the latest findings and future adaptation strategies based on the most current research.

Succesful stakeholder day during final Symposium of Humboldt Tipping project in Lima, Peru

Succesful stakeholder day during final Symposium of Humboldt Tipping project in Lima, Peru

Bringing together society and science

They were welcomed and introduced to the event by Dr. Cornelia Andersohn, representative of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Prof. Marie-Catherine Riekhof, coordinator of the Humboldt Tipping project, Edward Barriga, representative of the Peruvian project partner Instituto del Mar de Peru (IMARPE), Prof. Gerardo Damonte, Peruvian project partner of the Group for the Analysis of Development (Grade) and Armando Rosado from the Ministerio de Producción Peru. Prof. Gerardo Damonte moderated the event.

In the morning, relevant scientific results were presented in a compact format. Posters on the different work packages were also shown and the five short films created during the project were presented.

The afternoon was equally dedicated to dialogue and exchange: by means of targeted workshops on 1) Adaptation strategies in a changing world: how models can help us improve management, 2) The future of industrial fisheries in Peru and 3) Governance of artisanal fisheries, there was a lively discussion with all the invited guests from different sectors on the research results, integration into practice and future use of the accumulated know-how of the last four years. Participants discussed new scienetific insights on tipping points in the HUS, on-going challenges and possible future scenarios. The need for more possibilities to exchange in a setting similar to the HT-stakeholder day emerged as one conclusion for a possible way forward.

Despite the great diversity of different actors, and correspondingly different interests, all participants found the event very valuable and purposeful. This was a special characteristic of the event and we want to thank all participants to make this possible.

Final Symposium “Humboldt Tipping” in Lima, Peru

Final Symposium “Humboldt Tipping” in Lima, Peru

Looking back and glancing into the future after 4 years of research in the Humboldt Upwelling system

The first two days of the symposium are dedicated to scientific exchange on the project results. These will be presented internally by the different work packages. Together with the Peruvian partners of IMARPE and GRADE, we will work on future perspectives - How can we carry on the research from 4 years of collaboration within the Humboldt Tipping project even without further funding? In which research lines do we need to invest further? What have we learnt and what have we already been able to implement? Which knowledge gaps do we still need to close in the future?

The third day of the symposium is dedicated to the exchange with the stakeholders. Here, relevant results will be presented in a shorter format. In addition, there will be posters of the various work packages and the five short films produced in the course of the project will be shown.

The afternoon will also be dedicated to dialogue and exchange, with targeted workshops with all invited guests from different industries to discuss the research results, the integration into practice and the future use of the collected know-how from the past four years.

This day will bring together stakeholders from artisanal fisheries and their fishing associations from the north and south of the country, industrial fisheries, NGOs, local politics, the Ministries of Environment and Economy, mariculture associations, the Society for International Cooperation, national parks, schools and educational institutions as well as universities and the tourism sector. The event brings together stakeholders from across the country and from a wide variety of backgrounds and is designed, among other things, to promote dialogue and understanding among and for each other.

The results from the targeted workshops will feed back into research and eventually be able to make a socio-political contribution in the form of policy briefs. Thus, the Final Symposium is a preparation for a project conclusion but at the same time also a look into the future and an important step towards understanding such a globally important system as the Humboldt upwelling area and its sustainable management.

New research paper about the Peruvian Upwelling System published in Biogeosciences

New research paper about the Peruvian Upwelling System published in Biogeosciences

Mixed layer depth dominates over upwelling in regulating the seasonality of ecosystem functioning in the Peruvian upwelling system

This “seasonal paradox” triggers the following questions: (1) what are the unique characteristics of the Peruvian upwelling system, compared with other EBUSs, that lead to the out-of-phase relationship, and (2) how does the seasonal paradox influence ecosystem functioning? Using observational climatologies for four EBUSs, the authors diagnose that the Peruvian upwelling system is the only one to reveal that intense upwelling coincides with deep mixed layers. They then apply a coupled regional ocean circulation biogeochemical model (CROCO–BioEBUS) to assess how the interplay between mixed layers and upwelling regulates the seasonality of surface chlorophyll in the Peruvian upwelling system. The author´s model reproduces the “seasonal paradox” within 200 km off the Peruvian coast. They confirm previous findings regarding the main contribution of mixed layer depth to the seasonality of chlorophyll, relative to upwelling. Deep mixed layers in austral winter cause vertical dilution of phytoplankton and strong light limitation, impacting growth. The effect of advection, though second-order, is consistent with previous findings for the Peruvian system and other EBUSs, with enhanced offshore export opposing the coastal build-up of biomass. In addition, the authors find that the relatively colder temperatures of upwelled waters slightly dampen phytoplankton productivity and further slow the build-up of phytoplankton biomass. This impact from the combination of deep mixed layers and upwelling propagates through the ecosystem, from primary production to export and export efficiency. The findings emphasize the crucial role of the interplay between mixed layer depth and upwelling and suggest that surface chlorophyll may increase, along with a weakened seasonal paradox, in response to shoaling mixed layers under climate change.

Original publication open access: 

Xue, Tianfei , Frenger, Ivy , Prowe, A. E. Friederike , Jose, Yonss Saranga und Oschlies, Andreas (2022) Mixed layer depth dominates over upwelling in regulating the seasonality of ecosystem functioning in the Peruvian Upwelling System. Open Access Biogeosciences (BG), 19 . pp. 455-475.

DOI 10.5194/bg-19-455-2022.

The article is accessible at the following link:

New book chapter published on "Adaptations to climate variability in fisheries and aquaculture (...)"

New book chapter published on "Adaptations to climate variability in fisheries and aquaculture (...)"

Adaptations to climate variability in fisheries and aquaculture social-ecological systems in the Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem: challenges and solutions

The book chapter focuses on three marine social-ecological systems to identify weaknesses and leverage points for adaptation and resilience. The findings were that (1) the Peruvian artisanal fishery and aquaculture sectors urgently need an institutional framework for adaptation to future environmental changes; (2) bottom-up adaptation strategies require institutional support, tailored to socio-ecological specificities; and (3) additional research on socio-ecological tipping points and their effects for human-nature interactions and societal repercussions is necessary. These finding may be useful in other systems undergoing similar challenges.

Original publication: 

Romagnoni G., Kluger L., Tam J., Wolff M. 2022. Adaptations to climate variability in fisheries and aquaculture social-ecological systems in the Northern Humboldt Current Ecosystem: challenges and solutions. In: Human-nature interactions. Exploring nature’s values across landscapes. Misiune I., Depellegrin D., Egarter Vigl L. (Eds). Springer Nature. Open access.


  • In book: Human-Nature Interactions (pp.389-403)

The whole book is open access and the above mentioned chapter is accessible from the following link: