The structure and function of marine ecosystems are not the only factors to take into consideration when analysing marine organisms. All major changes at sea also induce changes in terrestrial ecosystems. The seas serve to regulate the weather, as a transport network, as a source for numerous food and mineral substances and as the final link in the chain of ecosystem loading.
Since primeval times coastal zones, as the bridge between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, have been more deeply influenced by human activity than any other part of the marine environment
At the same time these habitats are also used intensively for food production and recreation.
This dual anthropogenic influence, on the one hand from the introduction of substances, and on the other through the extraction of resources, now poses a serious threat to the survival and viability of theses marine ecosystems as well as to human health.
Current developments along the mud flats of the North Sea and the Baltic shores testify urgently to the fact that there are limits to the resistance of these sensitive ecosystems.
Only by acquiring a thorough understanding of these systems will it be possible to uphold the functions of these environments, which are of equal importance to both humans and nature.
The following sampling areas were chosen to represent marine ecosystems.