Freshwater ecosystems

Freshwater ecosystems offer an especially rich diversity of habitat conditions, plants and animal species. Whether forest ponds, mountain rivers or large lakes – the role of interactions between organisms that live there differ according to the type of water body involved. We explore these complex processes and interactions, including primary production, evolution, food webs, and interactions between parasites and their host.

However, ecosystems are not only habitats – humans also use them for resources, and they are being influenced and shaped by us to an ever-greater extent. For this reason, we consider humans and ecosystems within an integrated approach, rather than in isolation. For which services do we use ecosystems, and how can these be quantified? We hope that answers to questions such as these will give us a deeper understanding of ecosystems and what they signify to humans.

Selected publications

February 2024
WIREs Water. - X(2024)X, Art. e1717

Reviving Europe's rivers: Seven challenges in the implementation of the Nature Restoration Law to restore free-flowing rivers

Twan Stoffers; Florian Altermatt; Damiano Baldan; Olena Bilous; Florian Borgwardt; Anthonie D. Buijse; Elisabeth Bondar-Kunze; Nuria Cid; Tibor Erős; Maria Teresa Ferreira; Andrea Funk; Gertrud Haidvogl; Severin Hohensinner; Johannes Kowal; Leopold A. J. Nagelkerke; Jakob Neuburg; Tianna Peller; Stefan Schmutz; Gabriel A. Singer; Günther Unfer; Simon Vitecek; Sonja C. Jähnig; Thomas Hein

The authors identified potential challenges and ambiguities in the EU-NRL for restoring free-flowing rivers. They propose clear definitions of critical terms and the development of integrated assessment methods for prioritising actions to improve river connectivity as novel solutions to these challenges, contributing to the success of habitat restoration and biodiversity protection.

January 2024
Journal of Applied Ecology. - XX(2024)XX, XX-XX

Perspectives in modelling ecological interaction networks for sustainable ecosystem management

Pierre Quévreux; Ulrich Brose; Núria Galiana; Anton Potapov; Élisa Thébault; Morgane Travers-Trolet; Sabine Wollrab; Franck Jabot

The study provides perspectives on the use of network models to address a variety of applied ecological questions along spatial and temporal dimensions as well as on interactions between abiotic and biotic components of ecosystems. Through collaborative research, network models could provide important levers for sustainable management. 

January 2024
Water Research. - 250(2024), Art. 121065

Environmental DNA, hydrochemistry and stable water isotopes as integrative tracers of urban ecohydrology

Maria Magdalena Warter; Dörthe Tetzlaff; Ann-Marie Ring; Jan Christopher; Hanna L. Kissener; Elisabeth Funke; Sarah Sparmann; Susan Mbedi; Chris Soulsby; Michael T. Monaghan

The authors investigated the variability of planktonic bacteria and benthic diatoms coupled with insights from hydrochemistry and stable water isotopes across four urban streams in Berlin. DNA metabarcoding results shows substantial spatio-temporal variability across urban streams in terms of microbial diversity and richness, with clear links to abiotic factors and nutrient concentrations.

November 2023
Global Change Biology. - 30(2024)1, e17013

Lake browning counteracts cyanobacteria responses to nutrients: Evidence from phytoplankton dynamics in large enclosure experiments and comprehensive observational data

Anne Lyche Solheim; Hege Gundersen; Ute Mischke; Birger Skjelbred; Jens C. Nejstgaard; Alexis L. N. Guislain; Erik Sperfeld; Darren P. Giling; Sigrid Haande; Andreas Ballot; S. Jannicke Moe; Susanne Stephan; Tim J. W. Walles; Andreas Jechow; Laetitia Minguez; Lars Ganzert; Thomas Hornick; Truls Hveem Hansson; Cleo N. Stratmann; Marko Järvinen; Stina Drakare; Laurence Carvalho; Hans-Peter Grossart; Mark O. Gessner; Stella A. Berger

This study combines experiments in large enclosures with a comprehensive time series and a field survey to assess the joint effects of storm-induced lake browning, nutrient enrichment and deep-mixing on phytoplankton.Browning decreases nutrient enrichment effects on phytoplankton, including shifts in the species composition from cyanobacteria and chlorophytes to mixotrophic cryptophytes. 

July 2023
Scientific Data. - 10(2023) Art. 494

Flow dynamics in rivers with riffle-pool morphology: a dataset from case studies and field experiments

Oleksandra O. Shumilova; Alexander N. Sukhodolov

Riffle-pool sequences provide vital ecological services to aquatic organisms and are considered fundamental habitats in fluvial ecosystems. Little is known about riffle-pool hydrodynamics. The study presents a dataset on turbulent flow structure in riffle-pool sequences of a natural river,  the Tagliamento River in Italy.

Related Projects

Related Events

Related Downloads

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. 

EU Consultation: IGB feedback on Nutrient Action Plan

Based on its research and expertise, IGB commented on the EU Consultation “Nutrients – Action plan for better management”. While the scientific advice focuses on the impact of nutrient emissions on freshwater ecosystems, the IGB scientists underlined that aquatic systems are also closely linked to their terrestrial surrounding.

Experts at IGB

Sabine Hilt

Research Group Leader
Research group
Aquatic-Terrestrial Coupling and Regime Shifts

Sonja Jähnig

Head of Department
Research group
Aquatic Ecogeography

Jan Köhler

Head of Department (a.i.)
Research group
Photosynthesis and Growth of Phytoplankton and Macrophytes

Thomas Mehner

Vice-Director
Research group
Food Web Ecology and Fish Communities

Justyna Wolinska

Programme Area Speaker
Research group
Disease Evolutionary Ecology

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