Senckenberg Research

Biodiversity and Climate

False colour image of the European Alps
False colour image of the European Alps that influence European and Central Asian precipitation patterns since 15 million years. Copyright: NASA.


The loss of biodiversity and climate change count amongst the greatest challenges of the era. These factors exercise a mutual influence on each other. This means that, in order to be able to understand them properly, research activities must take both factors into account. This is exactly what the research area Biodiversity and Climate is concerned with. At its core is the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F).

In 2008, the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research and the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main established BiK-F as a joint venture. Other participants include the Institut für sozialökologische Forschung (Institute for Social-Ecological Research, ISOE), the Deutsche Wetterdienst (German Weather Service), EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) as well as a number of small and medium-sized companies.

One of its kind: biodiversity in focus

Over 130 scientists are doing research at BiK-F on the multifarious interactions that occur between biodiversity and climate. They work in close cooperation with the thematically related departments of the partner institutions. The focus of their fundamental biological, geoscientific and social scientific research is always placed on biodiversity. This combination is unique on both national and international levels.
The researchers use a wide variety of different methods. These range from large-scale climate modelling to the molecular-biological analysis of individual organisms. In this way, the scientists can document and analyse events and processes, both those taking place now as well as in the past. Their fields of study include ecosystems on land, in lakes, in rivers and in the sea — on both regional as well as global levels. Geological, evolutionary and ecological issues are addressed by teams comprising different disciplines. This opens up new pathways for the pursuit of biodiversity research.

A new approach: service and consultancy for decision-makers

On the basis of the research findings and models BiK-F is in a position to make forecasts about future developments. These in turn provide a basis for decision-making for politicians and other interest groups. In view of the huge significance of climate and biodiversity change for society and economic progress, this kind of information is currently in great demand. Thus BiK-F is helping to implement international agreements, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the EU Habitats Directive, the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, through the provision of scientific services and expert opinions to various stakeholders in society.

GELNHAUSEN River Ecology and Conservation WILHELMSHAVEN DZMB Marine Research GÖRLITZ Botany Zoology Soil Zoology WEIMAR Palaeontology Quarternary and Taxonomy of Insects Phylogenetic Systematics Information Center Entomology MÜNCHEBERG DRESDEN Museum of Zoology and Geology Museum of Mineralogy BIK-F Biodiversity Dynamics and Climate Adaptation and Climate Evolution and Climate Knowledge Transfer Data and Modelling Centre Laboratory Centre FRANKFURT AM MAIN Marine Zoology Palaeoanthropology and Messel Research Botany and Molecular Evolution Terrestrial Zoology Palaeontology and Historical Geology
Core Area Participation no Participation

The diagram above displays the degree of participation of the Senckenberg research departments in the research field "Biodiversity and Climate". Click on the department name to view its webpages.



Research activity highlights


Genomes reveal the history of the brown bears and polar bears

Polar bear with cupBrown bears and polar bears have adapted to very different habitats — but they remain very closely related. By means of genome analysis, researchers at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) have found out that they went their separate ways as species only as recently as 800,000 to 400,000 years ago. However, during warm periods their paths crossed again. more


Fossil rain isotopes reveal all

Monte Leone, 3552 m, view from the central Swiss AlpsThe Alps have been influencing precipitation patterns in Europe and Central Asia for 15 million years. Researchers from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) have extracted this information, as well as many other facts, from their studies of fossilized raindrops. For the isotopes that were contained in the raindrops when they fell have remained in fossilized form. more


Cryptic biodiversity and climate

Caddisfly catch from a light-trapping session.We cannot detect so-called cryptic biodiversity with our human senses, and yet it is of great importance for the survival of species. The term refers to the genetic variability within a given species. How does climate change affect this?  As scientists from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) have found out as a result of a recent overview study, the influence of climate change is frequently unfavourable. more