Soil Zoology

Cross-sectional projects

Project INPEDIV 

Integrative Analysis of the Influence of Pesticides and Land Use on Biodiversity in Germany 

In the Leibniz Collaborative Excellence project INPEDIV, we investigate the consequences of organic and conventional farming for biodiversity in protected areas. INPEDIV is an interdisciplinary joint project of seven partner institutes under the lead of the Zoologi cal Research Museum Alexander Koenig and funded by the Leibniz Competition for 3 years – March 2019 to February 2022. By use of traditional methods and new technologies, we will jointly examine agricultural land use effects with a special focus on pesticides on a broad range of plant and animal taxa. Study sites are located in the Rhineland and in Brandenburg.

Towards these goals, the Senckenberg Görlitz soil zoologists are investigating the relative importance of local and landscape-level factors for diversity and abundance of soil invertebrates and soil-biological dcomposition. Our species-level focus will be on oribatid mites, nematodes and earthworms. We will investigate how their patterns change along gradients of pesticide load, soil nutrient content and management intensity – from farmland to adjacent protected sites.

In close cooperation with colleagues from ZALF and University Bonn, the Görlitz Botany Department studies changes in plant community composition from arable fields to dry grasslands, focusing on the transition zone. We will also measure differences in soil nutrient conditions, and map differences in landscape structure by GIS based analysis of drone imagery.

Leibniz Logo_funded by_klein

Project BonaRes

Within the BMBF – sponsored research initiative Soil as a sustainable resource for the a new knowledge centre for soil functions and services in Germany is being developed: the BonaRes – Centre for Soil Research. The Centre is a cooperative project of the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz (SMNG) as well as the Technical University of Munich. The main goals are to research the effects of land use on soil functions and to develop strategies for a sustainable use and management of soils.

Towards these goals, a soil information system will be established that bundles the expertise of scientists from different areas of soil research (i.e., soil science, microbiology and zoology). Within this collaboration, the SMNG is primarily responsible for soil biological aspects as well as linking edaphobase with the BonaRes Centre.

Soils are a complex system, in which many factors and processes work together to produce complicated interactive structures (Fig. 1). The manifold physical, chemical and biological interactions result in soil functions and ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, water filtration, development and stabilization of soil structure as well as protection from pests and disease. In the end, the agricultural primary production depends on these processes. The comprehensive understanding of soil systems is essential in order to secure or increase harvests over the long term. To this end, within the BonaRes Centre, the SMNG will engage in the identification and quantification of biological drivers of soil functions, the development of indicators for assessing these functions as well as the provision of biological parameters for models of soil functions.

Project edaphobase 

Soil-zoological taxonomic-ecological database

In the project ”GBIF Information System on Soil Zoology”, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, taxonomical, zoogeographical und ecological information of the most important soil-zoological taxa is being assembled and interconnected. Present information databases for soil animals generally cover only regional collections. Neither have such small-scaled databases been linked together nor has additional sampling-site information been connected to taxonomic data.

This project will thus bring together existing data collections and databases from different research institutions within Germany as well as widely scattered information from the literature and link this data to information concerning collections sites and habitat requirements. The information system will provide tools for data mining and analysis for complex ecological and biogeographical investigations as well as basic information for the development of prognostic tools for prospective changes in soil biocoenoses and their influence on ecosystem processes, i.e., following land-use and climate change.


Project Chicken Creek

Primary succession

Together with the Technical University of Cottbus in the Transregio Special Research Area 38 of the German Science Foundation, the spatio-temporal colonization dynamics of soil microarthropods are being studied in a 6-ha experimental initial ecosystem since 2005. The new soils were inhabited by microarthropods already within the first months of site initiation. The Section Mesofauna is studying the temporal sequence of species additions, the population development of species already present and their spatial distributional dynamics within the site as well as the spatio-temporal community assembly during primary succession. Beyond the dependence of these processes on the simultaneously developing vegetation and soils, the research is focusing on the dependence of assembly processes on the ecological requirements of primary colonizing taxa as well as the temporal development of the various trophic levels of the soil food web.


The Virtual Microscope Slide Collection

Development of standards for the photographic documentation of permanent microscope slide mounts in precarious mounting media

“The scientifically motivated digitisation of cultural heritage materials is considered standard,
not a technical novelty.”

DFG-Practical Guidelines on “Digitalisation” 02/2013 funded by DFG: DFG XY 12/6-1

Digitisation allows science rapid access to research objects while conserving the originals. The linkage of diverse online resources creates a virtual research infrastructure that provides completely novel opportunities for science. To optimise their use in research and to ensure comparability, digitised materials should be produced under the same (documented) conditions. This requires the definition of standards for digitisation. For transparent to semitransparent three-dimensional microscopic objects, such as microinvertebrates or microscopic pieces of fungi, plants or other animals, the definition of standards is still in its initial stages. In this project we are developing standards and recommendations for taking microscopic images of 3D objects.

We therefore recommend as a standard for the digitalisation of three-dimensional objects in permanent preparations of soil organisms: (1) series of photographs with different focal planes (z stack); (2) using a microscope with motor focus; (3) at least one photograph with scale bar and measure of length; (4) bright-field microscopy, especially differential interference contrast microscopy (DIC); (5) the following metadata should be documented: creator of photographs, creation date, producer / type of microscope, producer / type of camera.


The benefits of Virmisco:

  • Virtual access to collections
    for taxonomic studies, like type material: Loans might become obsolete and prevents material – especially old and fragile one – from damage and loss.
  • New way for taxonomic publishing: the deposition of z-stacks in VIRMISCO in addition to the description will be a more comprehensible and objective documentation of the studied objects.
  • Education and taxonomic training since it constitutes a virtual reference collection.

Virmisco  provides more then 4.700 image stacks of ca. 172 taxa and more than 354 types from collection material of the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Goerlitz; Acari (Gamasina, Uropodina, Oribatida), Collembola, Myriapoda (Diplopoda, Chilopoda, Pauropoda), Nematoda, Plathelminthes, Tardigrada, Insecta (Diptera).



Dr. Axel Christian,
Tel. +49 3581 476052-01

Dr. Peter Decker,
Tel. +49 3581 476052-03