SOIL ORGANISMS 85 (2) 2013

Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde Görlitz

Soil Zoology

The Soil Zoology Division investigates various aspects of the taxonomy, systematics, morphology, biogeography, autecology and community ecology of soil organisms. The soil organisms we investigate are commonly divided into three major groups according to their size: the microfauna (soil organisms between 0.01 and 1 mm in length), mesofauna (about 1 to 5 mm) and macrofauna (more than 5mm).

Prof. Dr. Wolfram Dunger director of the Görlitz Natural History Museum for many years, established soil zoology as a central research area of the museum in the early 1960s.

He focused the ecological research on the investigation of the succession of soil-animal communities in primary habitats, such as reclaimed opencast mining areas. We are still continuing this research today. For more than 50 years we have been studying in a unique field experiment how such communities develop in initial soils over time, which immigration mechanisms different animal groups use when colonizing sterile soils, when which soil-animal communities develop under differing conditions, as well as how a highly disturbed habitat develops into a functioning soil ecosystem.

Further soil.-zoological research topics in Görlitz include soil food webs, the fauna of mofette fields, soil-zoological floodplain ecology, the upscaling of soil animal communities to the landscape level, as well as biological soil conservation and the protection of soil fauna. For the investigation of the interrelations between soil organisms and soil physics and chemistry, a soil-science laboratory has been available since 2010.

Our research results are transferred to the public via public lecturs, academic education at a number of different universities, training courses and educational material for schoolteachers and, in particular, via museum exhibitions such as the touring exhibitions “Beneath our Feet – Life in Soil”, “Tiere im Tagebau” (Animals in Opencast Mining Sites), and the virtual soil column at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz.

Major projects of the Soil Zoology Division are currently:

  • edaphobase: GBIF soil-zoological data and information system
  • LOEWE TBG: translational biodiversity genomics — Soil Metagenomics
  • Transregio: Primary colonisation of initial habitats
  • SBiK-F: Functional adaptations of decomposer communities to climate change
  • GBOL: German Barcode of Life – Inventory and genetic characterisation of animals, plants and fungi in Germany
  • INPEDIV: Integrative Analysis of the influence of pesticides and land use on biodiversity in Germany

International publications of the Department of Soil Zoology are:

Further projects and additional information can be found on the pages of the individual Sections.