Although freshwaters cover less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, they are some of the most species-rich habitats on our planet – so far at any rate. After all, rivers and lakes are experiencing a rapid decline in biological diversity. And yet it is still unclear what this loss means for our well-being in the long term. One important objective of our research is therefore to identify measures that enable us to protect the biodiversity of our freshwaters as effectively as possible. We investigate the causes, draw up forecasts relating to changes, and pool our expertise in biodiversity research and in knowledge-based environmental protection. Collaborating with international partners, we also collect global data on biodiversity in freshwaters, creating a unique foundation to ensure their protection.

Selected publications

June 2024
Nature Communications. - 15(2024), Art. 4781

A candidate sex determination locus in amphibians which evolved by structural variation between X- and Y-chromosomes

Heiner Kuhl; Wen Hui Tan; Christophe Klopp; Wibke Kleiner; Baturalp Koyun; Mitica Ciorpac; Romain Feron; Martin Knytl; Werner Kloas; Manfred Schartl; Christoph Winkler; Matthias Stöck

The authors have identified a gene locus responsible for sex determination in the European green toad. This reveals only the second known genetic mechanism for sex differentiation in amphibians.

May 2024
Nature Ecology & Evolution. - 8(2024), 1098-1108

Inland navigation and land use interact to impact European freshwater biodiversity

Aaron N. Sexton, Jean-Nicolas Beisel, Cybill Staentzel, Christian Wolter, Evelyne Tales, Jérôme Belliard, Anthonie D. Buijse, Vanesa Martínez Fernández, Karl M. Wantzen, Sonja C. Jähnig, Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber, Peter Haase, Marie Anne Eurie Forio, Gait Archambaud, Jean-François Fruget, Alain Dohet, Vesela Evtimova, Zoltán Csabai, Mathieu Floury, Peter Goethals, Gábor Várbiró, Miguel Cañedo-Argüelles, Aitor Larrañaga, Anthony Maire, Ralf B. Schäfer, James S. Sinclair, Rudy Vannevel, Ellen A. R. Welti & Alienor Jeliazkov

Using a comprehensive set of long-term data, the authors show that shipping has contributed to a significant loss of biodiversity of fish and macroinvertebrates in European rivers in recent decades – and that the animal communities are becoming increasingly homogeneous and river-typical species are being lost. Invasive species, on the other hand, are significantly increasing. 

May 2024
People and Nature. - 6(2024)2, 435-445

The potential of citizen science to transform science: Lessons for a sustainable future

K. Austen; A. Janssen; J. M. Wittmayer; F. Hölker

The authors analysed 8 citizen science projects within Accelerator Programme of the EU H2020 funded ACTION project that deal with environmental pollution. Citizen science involves the public in the scientific process, making research more relevant and responsive. Our findings show that this can lead to a more sustainable future, where science and society work together to solve pressing problems.

May 2024
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. - 22(2024)4, e2725

A scenario-guided strategy for the future management of biological invasions

Núria Roura- Pascual; Wolf- Christian Saul; Cristian Pérez-Granados; Lucas Rutting; Garry D Peterson; Guillaume Latombe; Franz Essl; Tim Adriaens; David C Aldridge; Sven Bacher; Rubén Bernardo-Madrid; Lluís Brotons; François Diaz; Belinda Gallardo; Piero Genovesi; Marina Golivets; Pablo González-Moreno; Marcus Hall; Petra Kutlesa; Bernd Lenzner; Chunlong Liu; Konrad Pagitz; Teresa Pastor; Wolfgang Rabitsch; Peter Robertson; Helen E Roy; Hanno Seebens; Wojciech Solarz; Uwe Starfinger; Rob Tanner; Montserrat Vilà; Brian Leung; Carla Garcia-Lozano; Jonathan M Jeschke

The study used a scenario-based approach to explore management options for invasive species in Europe. During two workshops involving a multidisciplinary team of experts, a management strategy arranged into 19 goals relating to policy, research, public awareness, and biosecurity was developed considering different future scenarios of biological invasions.

February 2024
BioScience. - XX(2024)X, XX–XX

The potential of historical spy-satellite imagery to support research in ecology and conservation

Catalina Munteanu; Benjamin M. Kraemer; Henry H. Hansen; Sofia Miguel; E.J. Milner-Gulland; Mihai Nita; Igor Ogashawara; Volker C. Radeloff; Simone Roverelli; Oleksandra O. Shumilova; Ilse Storch; Tobias Kuemmerle

This study evaluated the spatial, temporal, and seasonal coverage of over one million declassified images from 4 US spy-satellite programmes, showing that this data spans nearly the entire globe and all seasons. Their use could lead to better mapping of the historical extent and structure of ecosystems and human impacts, and help reconstruct past habitats and species distributions.

Related Projects

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Outlines | IGB Dossier: Small standing water bodies as biodiversity hotspots – particularly valuable, but highly endangered

Small standing waters are overlooked and underestimated because of their small size – yet they account for more than 30 percent of the world's inland water bodies and are of great ecological and social importance. In order to raise awareness of this problem and to point out options for action for policymakers, authorities and the civil society, IGB has published an IGB Dossier on this important type of water body. 

Experts at IGB

Sami Domisch

Research Group Leader
Research group
Global Freshwater Biodiversity, Biogeography and Conservation

Lynn Govaert

Research Group Leader
Research group
Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics

Sonja Jähnig

Head of Department
Research group
Aquatic Ecogeography

Matthias Stöck

Research Group Leader
Research group
Genetics and Evolution of Fish (and other Vertebrates)

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