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Knowledge Compiled for Researching and Protecting Our Coasts

The coastMap marine geoportal at the Institute of Coastal Research

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Satellite image from the North Sea out of the coastMap-Webapp. Data from ESA (MERIS), processed by Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung GmbH

Shelf seas and their coasts are constantly changing. They are shaped by advancing climate change, accompanied by rising temperatures and higher sea levels. In addition, pressures on the coastal sea ecosystems caused by human activity is growing globally due to, for example, fisheries, shipping and the expansion of offshore wind energy. More than three billion people alone, who account for over forty percent of the world’s population, live in close proximity to the global coasts today — and this is a rising trend.

The coastal environment’s reaction to these natural and anthropogenic pressures must be recognised and their impact on the environmental conditions must be evaluated. This is a complex scientific endeavour, as often different influences interact, making it difficult to find suitable measures to prevent or reverse undesired developments. Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht’s Institute of Coastal Research have developed the coastMap geoportal to make this work considerably easier. In addition, coastMap provides external partners from Germany and abroad a special Internet platform to present and analyse their data.

Here you can access the coastMap platform

The new Internet portal includes different tools:

Campaign Data

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Photo: HZG/Ina Frings

In a userfriendly online tool, more than 250,000 data points are made available from seabed studies in the North Sea, the overlying water column and the atmosphere. Filter functions allow users to search for general topics such as an oceanographic region of interest as well as by individual criteria, which, for example, includes a specific ship campaign or one of over a thousand measurement parameters, such as pollutant quantities or salinity. All data can be downloaded free of charge and visualised immediately.

Map Gallery

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Graphic: DKRZ/HZG

Regularly updated representations are derived from models and measurement data and are provided in the map gallery. Additional links can be used to explore the freely available foundation of data in interactive maps.

Tool for Analysing Large Model Data Sets

Models produce data regarding the condition of the coastal sea, which cover long periods and large regions more thoroughly than is possible through cruises with research ships. These model results are, however, often only utilised by experts as the data sets are too large. The coastMap modelling analysis tool uses a special “big data” approach to provide simplified access to complex and typically huge model data sets. This tool therefore closes the gap between modelling scientists and experts from other fields, such as biology and geology, who require model data for their research but often have little experience in handling it. Users can independently carry out statistical analysis through a userfriendly interface and they can download derived model data.


Results of various scientific core areas are explained in a generally comprehensible manner as scientific highlights. For example, the importance of ocean currents, the distribution of shipping emissions and the methods of research in these areas are represented in an interesting way.

“The central geoportal makes an important contribution in promoting data exchange amongst scientists in various disciplines, in supporting political and business decision making and in initiating dialogue with the public,” says institute director at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Prof Kay Emeis as he sums up the coastMap portal.



The scientists from the Biogechemistry division at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht’s Institute of Coastal Research were in charge of coastMap’s development. The researchers at the institute study changes in our planet’s coastal regions with an emphasis on the North and Baltic Seas, both shelf seas.

During the portal’s development, data and findings were entered in from the BMBF-funded NOAH-Projekt (North Sea Observation and Assessment of Habitats) The project is one of twelve from the “Coastal Research Agenda for the North and Baltic Sea (KüNO)”, part of the BMBF framework program “Research for Sustainable Development” (FONA).



Kay-Christian Emeis E-mail contact

Project coordination "coastMap"

Marcus Lange E-mail contact