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Endangered Coral Reefs in Focus

From July 19 to 23, 2021, the university is organizing digitally the world’s largest coral reef conference. The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) is also scheduled to take place in person in Bremen in 2022. It is the first time in the over 50-year history of the ICRS that the conference will

Originally, it was planned for the international conference to take place last year under the name “14th ICRS 2020.” The symposium had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The ICRS conference organization team from the University of Bremen subsequently developed a new concept under the lead of Professor Christian Wild: A solely digital event with the name “14th ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL” which is to take place over five days. Additionally, a face-to-face event – as was originally planned – is to take place in Bremen under the name “15th ICRS 2022 IN-PERSON” from July 3 to 8, 2022.

“We Are in the Middle of a Global Coral Reef Crisis”

The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) is by far the most significant worldwide conference that focuses on the ecosystems of coral reefs. Since 1967, people from academia, coastal management, environmental protection, and politics have usually met every four years to present their current research findings. “This conference is especially significant,” says Professor Christian Wild from the University of Bremen, who is organizing the event with his team, “as we are in the middle of a global coral reef crisis.” Across the world, 30 percent of all coral reefs are already lost, 40 percent are massively endangered, and only less than 30 percent are in a relatively good condition.” The main causes are climate change, overfishing, and ocean pollution.

“Science-Policy Dialogue” Event: Participation Possible via Live Stream

At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, an important strategic paper with the title “Rebuilding Coral Reefs: A Decadal Grand Challenge” will be presented to the public as part of ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL and will subsequently be available for download. The paper targets worldwide decision makers from politics, administration, economy, and civil society. “We want to make the urgency of measures, which are needed for the protection and restoration of coral reefs, clear,” says Dr. Sebastian Ferse from the ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL organization committee, who is the organizer of this event. He is a researcher at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen. The strategy paper offers a summary of the most relevant and recent findings in natural and social sciences and thus provides a basis for discussions and negotiations regarding environmental and nature protection, climate change, and sustainable development on local and global levels.

ICRS 2021 participants and the public can enjoy the event via live stream. The event has a top-class panel. The speakers include:

  • Ambassador Peter Thomson (the UN General Secretary's special envoy for the oceans)
  • Nancy Knowlton (lead author of the strategy paper, Smithsonian Institution)
  • David Obura (contributing author, founding director of CORDIO East Africa)
  • Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU))
  • Abdulla Naseer (State Minister for the Environment, Maldives)
  • Leticia Carvalho (head of the Ocean and Sweetwater Department, UN Environment Programme)
  • David Souter (Global Coordinator, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network)
  • Andréa Grottoli (president of the International Coral Reef Society)

Under the lead of the International Coral Reef Symposium 2021, the “Science-Policy Dialogue” event is being organized by Future Earth Coasts, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety, the International Coral Reef Society, the UN Environment Programme, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the Prince Albert II von Monaco Foundation, and the Kellner & Stoll Foundation for the Climate and Environment from the University of Bremen. Further information is available at: .

Numerous Events in Bremen in 2021 and 2022

To draw attention to the importance of and threats to coral reefs, the ICRS organizing team is planning numerous events in Bremen this year and next, with the support of the following partners: the Übersee Museum Bremen, the House of Science, the DEEPWAVE ocean conservation organization, and the Science Notes magazine. The events below are going to take place in 2021:

Übersee Museum Bremen

The exhibition “Coral Reefs – Diverse. Vulnerable. Lost?” has already been on display since May this year. Until July 10, 2022, visitors can learn everything they ever wanted to know about the importance of coral reefs for the oceans and about the threats these face from overfishing, pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification. There is also information on effective conservation strategies. The exhibition is bilingual (English/German) and thus well worth a visit for international guests to Bremen. The Übersee Museum Bremen and the ICRS 2021 organization team of the University of Bremen jointly curated it. Accompanying the exhibition, on September 21, 2021, the expert author Heinz Krimmer will give a talk on “How corals are changing our world.”

Virtual Film Evening

The “Saving Corals – ICRS Filmfestival” promises an exciting film evening hosted by the DEEPWAVE ocean conservation organization. As part of the ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL, the film night will take place virtually on Sunday, July 18, 2021: .

Virtual Evening Event

The Science Notes magazine invites you to another special virtual event in the evening of November 4, 2021, aimed primarily at young audiences: “What to do about the coral reef crisis?” Professor Christian Wild and Dr. Carin Jantzen from “SECORE INTERNATIONAL – give coral reefs a future” will provide information and engage in discussion.

Bremen Is a Scientific Hub in Marine Research

Bremen has a wealth of expertise in marine research and an excellent network of partners. At the university, the neighboring non-academic institutions at the Bremen Technology Park, and throughout the region, researchers in oceanography and environmental physics, marine geosciences, marine biology and chemistry are collaborating across disciplines. Legal sciences, social sciences, and humanities are also closely linked to the field of marine research. Marine, polar and climate research are high-profile areas at the University of Bremen, and are strategically promoted. MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen is the home of the “The Ocean Floor – Earth's Uncharted Interface” Cluster of Excellence. Here, researchers cooperate closely not only with local institutions but also with international partners. Such a range of expertise at one location is unparalleled in marine sciences in Germany and is only realized at very few locations worldwide. Coral reef research highlights this and various actors from the University of Bremen participate in it – for example the BreMarE – Bremen Marine Ecology and MARUM. Other Bremen-based non-university institutions also deal with coral reefs, such as the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI), and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. They all contribute to the shaping of the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Bremen.


Further Information:

For newsroom, photos for download, and conference registration for the ICRS 2021 VIRTUAL from July 19 to 23, 2021, visit:

Registration and further information for the “Science-Policy Dialogue” event at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 20, 2021:  (in German)



Heinz Krimmer
ICRS 2021 Conference Secretariat
Department of Marine Ecology
University of Bremen
Email: heinz.krimmerprotect me ?!icrs2021protect me ?!.de

[Translate to English:] Blick auf Riff und Strand mit Palmen
A fascinating underwater world that should not be taken for granted. The existence of coral reefs is in danger.