Tracing origin and distribution of geogenic and anthropogenic dissolved and particulate critical high-technology metals in the southern North Sea


Research cruise:
M169 with RV Meteor in the North Sea
11.12. – 29.12.2020

Find the TRAM cruise BLOG here:


Project summary:

Coastal environments facing ever-growing human pressure receive anthropogenic inputs of high-technological critical metals from various sources. However, the biogeochemical behavior of these metals and the potential risks they pose to marine organisms and the marine food chain remain mainly unknown. Against this background, he TRAM project aims at studying anthropogenic inputs of emerging, critical metal contaminants such as rare earth elements, Sc, Ga, Ge, Pt, Zr, Ti, Mo, and V, from the German rivers Elbe, Weser, and Ems, into the ocean. The main research focus is the characterization of geogenic and anthropogenic trace metal concentrations along the salinity transects of the three rivers in the western part of the German exclusive economic zone. These are then compared to the less affected regions of the North Sea around the Dogger Bank. In addition to this, the project will investigate metal resistances of the microbial communities to assess the impact of metal input on microbes, which serve as the first level of the marine food chain.

Project objectives:

  • Investigating and comparing the anthropogenic Ems, Weser, and Elbe input and the input of the channel inflow (from rivers Rhine and Thames) and the deep-water roadstead and Helgoland.
  • Characterizing trace metal distribution between different physical size pools over the salinity gradient in order to quantify the contribution of the individual size fractions to the overall riverine input.
  • Determining lability of (anthropogenic) trace metal complexes and NPCs using a passive sampling method
  • Tracing anthropogenic inputs into the North Sea, using anthropogenic La and Gd
  • Using Ga/Al and Ge/Si ratios to trace anthropogenic Ga and Ge
Work area, stations, and profiles of the TRAM expedition: The working area comprises the Ems, Weser, and Elbe estuaries from the freshwater endmember to the seawater endmember along the salinity gradient, as well as the plume dispersal along the prevailing currents (predominantly towards the east)

Project lead/ Chief scientist:
Prof. Dr. Andrea Koschinsky (JUB)

JUB – Scientists involved:

Prof. Dr. Andrea Koschinsky
Prof. Dr. Michael Bau
Prof. Dr. Matthias Ullrich
Prof. Dr. Vikram Unnithan
Dr. Erika Kurahashi (WG Koschinsky) (main contact)
Dr. Sophie Paul (WG Koschinsky)
Dr. Timmu Kreitsmann (WG Bau)
Dr. Dennis Krämer (WG Bau)
Adrienne Hollister (WG Koschinsky)
David Ernst (WG Bau)
Franziska Klimpel (WG Bau)
Rohit Dey (WG Thomsen)
Annika Moje (WG Koschinsky & WG Bau)

Filtering water samples onboard of RV Meteor (M169, 2020, picture by A. Hollister)

RV Meteor (M169, picture by A. Hollister)
Deployment of CTD onboard of RV Meteor
(M169, picture by A. Hollister)