River and Floodplain Ecology

LTER site: Rhine-Main-Observatory

The Rhine-Main-Observatory (RMO) is a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site located in central Germany. It covers the entire watershed of the River Kinzig (1058 km²).

In the RMO we examine long-term effects of habitat fragmentation, land-use and climate change, as well as other environmental variables on animal and plant communities. Particularly, we focus on stream, floodplain and urban ecosystems that are underrepresented in existing long-term monitoring.

Species Database Rhine-Main-Observatory

Third party funded projects


Further information


The Rhine-Main metropolitan region is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe. The intense human use has caused a marked decline or disappearance of many animal and plant species, as well as entire habitats. This biodiversity loss is one of the most pressing environmental problems of our time. However, we still lack a sufficient understanding of the complex interactions between human land use and biodiversity.

In the Rhine-Main-Observatory we investigate through intensive long-term studies, how habitat fragmentation, land-use and climate change jointly affect biodiversity. For this purpose we monitor different communities associated with freshwater ecosystems. In parallel, extensive geographical, physical and chemical environmental variables, along with sociological data are collected. It is through this comprehensive long-term and large-scale approach that far-reaching conclusions about the causes of changes in biodiversity can be drawn. This in turn, allows the prediction of the effects of future land-use or climate-induced changes on biodiversity as well as to infer recommendations for the protection of endangered species and habitats. With the extensive available data sets, its strategic location and well-equipped research station in Gelnhausen, the Rhine-Main-Observatory is a modern platform for biodiversity research in Europe.

Study Area

The Rhine-Main-Observatory comprises the entire 1058 km² catchment area of the River Kinzig (Main) which flows between the Spessart, Rhön and Vogelsberg mountain ranges of the German Central Uplands. With a total length of 86 km, the Kinzig flows into the River Main at the city of Hanau. Thus, the Rhine-Main-Observatory includes both densely populated areas on the outskirts of the Rhine-Main metropolitan region as well as natural landscapes with little anthropogenic disturbance. This creates a highly diverse mosaic of land uses along a wide gradient of exploitation activities, from vibrant city centers to dense industrial areas; and from intensively and extensively used agricultural land, to heavily managed forests, to natural reserves. The biodiversity patterns and ecological processes in such complex, fragmented landscapes have hardly been examined so far. The Rhine-Main-Observatory is intensively instrumented and biological samples are taken with regular frequency at high densities.

Available Data

A broad variety of biological and environmental data are available.


DEIMS (Drupal Ecological Information System)

Extensive metadata to the individual data sets are available through the LTER-Europe database DEIMS or via the LTER-D MoMo database. If you are interested in using our data for your own research, do not hesitate to contact us.


Ongoing Projects

eLTER H2020

The eLTER H2020 (European Long-Term Ecosystem and Socio-Ecological Research Infrastructure) project aims to build and improve the development of European Long-Term Ecosystem Research infrastructures. Important aims are to incorporate societal challenges to delineate user needs for the research infrastructure as well as to create a cost-efficient pan-European network which can be used to tackle a large variety of research objectives. The conceptual realization of the envisaged infrastructure and the integration of data for virtual access are among of the most important tasks. The eLTER project is in close collaboration with the LTER-Europe network and the European Critical Zone Observatories (CZO). Altogether, 162 Long-Term Ecosystem sites spanning 22 countries from all over Europe including the respective datasets are available for the scientific evaluation of long-term trends.

Project duration: June 2015 to May 2019 


In general, biodiversity observation systems and environmental data are not evenly distributed and the collation and provisioning of high-quality environmental data to stakeholders is considered of critical importance. Against this background, the EU BON project (Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network) proposes a new framework to integrate biodiversity information covering environmental data ranging from on-ground to remote sensing data, in order to address policy and information needs in a more efficient and customized way. The project is an integral part of the GEO BON (Group on Earth Observation’s Biodiversity Observation Network) project and intends to improve its technological/informatics infrastructures for a better delivery and access of near real-time environmental data.

Project duration: December 2012 – May 2017 


completed projects


“EnvEurope was conceived synergistically dealing with several key targets and in response to challenges of research within the Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe site network (LTER-Europe). The project has been structured to play a role in the conceptual and operative context of the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) promoted by the European Commission and in the development of some components of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), a joint initiative of the European Commission and European Space Agency. Within this context the project intends to lay the foundations for a more integrated system for successful long-term ecosystem research and monitoring at the European level, focused on understanding status, trends and changes of environmental quality and on the elaboration of relevant detection systems and methods.” (http://www.enveurope.eu/)

The RMO is part of the LTER Europe network and subject matter of the EnvEurope approach in order to define “environmental quality indicators with an integrated long-term, broad scale, cross-domain (terrestrial, continental, wetlands and marine ecosystems) approach.”

Project duration: January 2010 to December 2013

Initial conception and establishment of the Rhine-Main-Obvervatory (RMO)

In 2007, the RMO was established as a unique longterm-research site. The project was funded by the Stiftung Flughafen Frankfurt/Main and aimed at the following objectives:

Establishing of a state-of-the-art scientific long-term-research site within one of Germany`s most densely populated areas. The site is comparable to other long-term research sites located in North-America and Germany, hence analyses conducted within the RMO enable evaluations on a national and international level.
The processes and relationships between biodiversity and changes in land-use and/or other environmental variables are tracked and analyzed
Based on the obtained knowledge, future scenarios focusing on the establishment and development of numerous species of fauna and flora can be applied (i.e. global change).
Science-based reference can be used to support any future design and implementation of measures for regional planning, including the conservation of endangered animals and habitats

Project duration: May 2007 to April 2010


Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD)

Meteorological data is provided by the German Meteorological Service (Deutsche Wetterdienst (DWD)). The data has been continuously collected since 1931 and is available for 5 meteorological stations.

Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG)

The HLNUG is the technical and scientific authority within the Hessian environmental administration supervising and conducting environmental monitoring throughout the Federal State of Hesse. The HLNUG provides various biotic data including benthic invertebrates, fish and macrophytes as well as abiotic data on hydrology, climate, water and groundwater chemistry and soils within the Rhine-Main-Observatory.

Publications & Theses


Zajicek, P., Welti, E., Baker, N., Januschke, K., Brauner, O. & Haase, P. (2021). No changes in ground beetle taxonomic and functional diversity, but in activity density in response to global change drivers across 40 sites in Germany over the last two decades. Scientific Reports. In press.

Leese, F., Sander, M., Buchner, D., Elbrecht, V., Haase, P. & Zizka, V. (2021). Improved freshwater macroinvertebrate detection from eDNA through minimized non-target amplification. Environmental DNA 3:261–276.

Baker, N.J., Pilotto, F., Jourdan, J., Beudert, B. & Haase, P. (2021). Recovery from air pollution and subsequent acidification masks the effects of climate change on a freshwater macroinvertebrate community. Sci Total Environ 758: 143685. Pilotto, F., Kühn, I., Adrian, R. et al. & Haase, P. (2020). Meta-analysis of multidecadal biodiversity trends in Europe. Nature Communications 11: 3486.

Müller, F., Bicking, S., Ahrendt, K., Kinh Bac, D., Blindow, I., Fürst, C., Haase, P., Kruse, M., Kruse, T., Ma, L., Perennes, M., Ruljevic, I., Schernewski, G., Schimming, C.-G., Schneiders, A., Schubert, H., Schumacher, J., Tappeiner, U., Wangai, P., Windhorst, W. & Zeleny, J. (2020). Assessing ecosystem service potentials to evaluate terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystem types in Northern Germany – An expert-based matrix approach. Ecological Indicators 112: 106116.

Kakouei, K., Domisch, S., Kiesel, J., Kail, J. & Jähnig, S.C. (2020) Climate model variability leads to uncertain predictions of the future abundance of stream macroinvertebrates. Scientific Reports 10, 2520. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-59107-y.

Weigand, A.M., Michler-Kozma, D., Kuemmerlen, M. & Jourdan, J. (2020). Substantial differences in genetic diversity and spatial structuring among (cryptic) amphipod species in a mountainous river basin. Freshwater Biology 65 (9): 1641-1656.

Lembrechts, J.J., Aalto, J., Ashcroft, M.B., De Frenne, P., Kopecký, M., Lenoir, J., Luoto, M., Maclean, I.M.D., Roupsard, O., Fuentes-Lillo, E., García, R.A., Pellissier, L., Pitteloud, C., Alatalo, J.M., Smith, S.W., Björk, R.G., Muffler, L., Cesarz, S., Gottschall, F., Backes, A.R., Okello, J., Urban, J., Plichta, R., Svátek, M., Phartyal, S.S., Wipf, S., Eisenhauer, N., Pușcaș, M., Dan Turtureanu, P., Varlagin, A., Dimarco, R.D., Jump, A.S., Randall, K., Dorrepaal, E., Larson, K., Walz, J., Vitale, L., Svoboda, M., Finger Higgens, R., Halbritter, A.H., Curasi, S.R., Klupar, I., Koontz, A., Pearse, W.D., Simpson, E., Stemkovski, M., Graae, B.J., Vedel Sørensen, M., Høye, T.T., Fernández Calzado, M.R., Lorite, J., Carbognani, M., Tomaselli, M., Forte, T.G.W., Petraglia, A., Haesen, S., Somers, B., Van Meerbeek, K., Björkman, M.P., Hylander, K., Merinero, S., Gharun, M., Buchmann, N., Dolezal, J., Matula, R., Thomas, A.D., Bailey, J.J., Ghosn, D., Kazakis, G., de Pablo, M.A., Kemppinen, J., Niittynen, P., Rew, L., Seipel, T., Larson, C., Speed, J.D.M., Ardö, J., Cannone, N., Guglielmin, M., Malfasi, F., Bader, M.Y., Canessa, R., Stanisci, A., Kreyling, J., Schmeddes, J., Teuber, L., Aschero, V., Čiliak, M., Máliš, F., De Smedt, P., Govaert, S., Meeussen, C., Vangansbeke, P., Gigauri, K., Lamprecht, A., Pauli, H., Steinbauer, K., Winkler, M., Ueyama, M., Nuñez, M.A., Ursu, T.M., Haider, S., Wedegärtner, R.E.M., Smiljanic, M., Trouillier, M., Wilmking, M., Altman, J., Brůna, J., Hederová, L., Macek, M., Man, M., Wild, J., Vittoz, P., Pärtel, M., Barančok, P., Kanka, R., Kollár, J., Palaj, A., Barros, A., Mazzolari, A.C., Bauters, M., Boeckx, P., Benito Alonso, J.L., Zong, S., Di Cecco, V., Sitková, Z., Tielbörger, K., van den Brink L., Weigel, R., Homeier, J., Dahlberg, C.J., Medinets, S., Medinets, V., De Boeck, H.J., Portillo-Estrada, M., Verryckt, L.T., Milbau, A., Daskalova, G.N., Thomas, H.J.D., Myers-Smith, I.H., Blonder, B., Stephan, J.G., Descombes, P., Zellweger, F., Frei, E.R., Heinesch, B., Andrews, C., Dick, J., Siebicke, L., Rocha, A., Senior, R.A., Rixen, C., Jimenez, J.J., Boike, J., Pauchard, A., Scholten, T., Scheffers, B., Klinges, D., Basham, E.W., Zhang, J., Zhang, Z., Géron, C., Fazlioglu, F., Candan, O., Sallo Bravo, J., Hrbacek, F., Laska, K., Cremonese, E., Haase, P., Moyano, F.E., Rossi, C. & Nijs, I. (2020). SoilTemp: a global database of near-surface temperature. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15123

Kiesel, J., Kakouei, K., Guse, B., Fohrer, N. & Jähnig, S.C. (2020). When is a hydrological model sufficiently calibrated to depict flow preferences of riverine species? Ecohydrology 2020;e2193. DOI: 10.1002/eco.2193

Kiesel, J., Gericke, A., Rathjens, H., Wetzig, A., Kakouei, K., Jähnig, S.C. & Fohrer, N. (2019). Climate change impacts on ecologically relevant hydrological indicators in three catchments in three European ecoregions. Ecological Engineering 127: 404 – 416.

Musche, M., Adamescu, M., Angelstam, P., Bacher, S., Bäck, J., Buss, H.L., Duffy, C., Flaim, G., Gaillardet, J., Giannakis, ,G.V.  Haase, P., Halada, L., Kissling, W.D., Lundin, L., Matteucci, G., Meesenburg, H., Monteith, D., Nikolaidis, N.P., Pipan, T., Pyšek, P., Rowe, E.C., Roy, D.B., Sier, A., Tappeiner, U., Vilà, M., White, T., Zobel, M. & Klotz, S. (2019). Research questions to facilitate the future development of European long-term ecosystem research infrastructures: a horizon scanning exercise. Journal of Environmental Management 250: 109479.   Dirnböck, T., Haase, P., Mirtl, M., Pau, J. & Templer, P. (2019). Contemporary International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) – from biogeosciences to socio-ecology and biodiversity research”. Regional Environmental Change 19: 309–311.

Djukic, I., Kepfer-Rojas, S., Kappel Schmidt, I., Steenberg Larsen, K., Beier, C., Berg, B., Verheyen, K. & TeaComposition (incl. Haase, P.) (2018). Early stage litter decomposition across biomes. Stoten 628-629: 1369-1394.

Mirtl, M, Borer, E., Djukic, I., Forsius, M., Haubold, H., Hugo, W., Jourdan, J., Lindenmayer, D., McDowell, W.H., Muraoka, H., Orenstein, D., Pauw, J., Peterseil, J., Shibata, H., Wohner, C., Yu, X.  & Haase, P. (2018). Genesis, goals and schievements of Long-Term Ecological Research at the global scale: A critical review of ILTER and future implications. Stoten 626: 1439-1462.

Haase, P., Tonkin, J.D., Stoll, S., Burkhard, B., Frenzel, M., Geijzendorffer, I.R., Häuser, C., Klotz, S., Kühn, I., McDowell, W.H., Mirtl, M., Müller, F., Musche, M., Penner, J., Zacharias, S. & Schmeller, D.S. (2018): The next generation of site-based long-term ecological monitoring: Linking essential biodiversity variables and ecosystem integrity. Stoten 613-614: 1376-1384.

Jourdan, J., O’Hara, R.B., Bottarin, R., Huttunen, K.-L., Kuemmerlen, M., Monteith, D., Muotka, T., Ozoliņš, D., Paavola, R, Pilotto, F., Springe, G., Skuja, A., Sundermann, A., Tonkin, J.D. & Haase, P. (2018). Effects of changing climate on European stream invertebrate communities: A long-term data analysis. Stoten 613-614: 1185-1195.

Kakouei, K., Kiesel, J., Domisch, S., Irving, K. S., Jähnig, S. C., & Kail, J. (2018). Projected effects of Climate‐change‐induced flow alterations on stream macroinvertebrate abundances. Ecology and Evolution 2018: 1-17.

Bowler, D., Hof, C., Haase, P., Kröncke, I., Schweiger, O., Adrian, R., Baert, L, Bauer, H.-G., Blick, T., Brooker, R., Dekoninck, W., Domisch, S., Eckmann, R., Hendrickx, F., Hickler, T., Klotz, S., Kraberg, A., Kühn, I., Matesanz, S., Meschede, A., Neumann, H., O’Hara, B., Russell, D., Sell, A., Sonnewald, M., Stoll, S., Sundermann, A., Tackenberg, O., Türkay, M., Valladares, F., van Herk, K., van Klink, R., Vermeulen, R., Voigtländer, K., Wagner, R., Welk, E., Wiemers, M., Wiltshire, K. & Böhning-Gaese, K. (2017). Cross-realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1: article 0067.

Geijzendorffer, I.R., Regan, E., Pereira, H., Brutons, L., Brummitt, N., Gavish, Y., Haase, P., Martin, C.S., Mihoub, J.-B., Secades, C., Schmeller, D.S., Stoll, S., Wetzel, F.T. & Walters, M. (2016). Bridging the gap between biodiversity data and policy reporting needs: An Essential Biodiversity Variables perspective. Journal of Applied Ecology 53:1341-1350.

Haase, P., M. Frenzel, S. Klotz, M. Musche & S. Stoll (2016) The Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) network: Relevance, current status, future perspective and examples from marine, freshwater and terrestrial long-term observation. Ecological Indicators 65: 1-3.

Müller, F, Bergmann, M., Dannowski, R., Dippner, J.W., Gnauck, A., Haase, P., Jochimsen, M.C., Kasprzak, P., Kröncke, I., Kümmerlin, R., Küster, M., Lischeid, G., Meesenburg, H., Merz, C., Millat, G., Müller, J., Padisák, J., Schimming, C.G. , Schubert, H., Schult, M., Selmeczy, G., Shatwell, T., Stoll, S., Schwabe, M., Soltwedel, T. & Straile, D. (2016). Assessing resilience in long-term ecological data sets. Ecological Indicators 65: 10-43.

Mollenhauer, H., Kasner, M., Haase, P., Peterseil, J., Wohner, C., Frenzel, M., Mirtl, M., Schima, R., Bumberger, J. & Zacharias, S. (2018). Long-term environmental monitoring infrastructures in Europe – Observations, measurements, scales, and socio-ecological representativeness. Stoten 624: 968–978.

Tonkin, J.D., Stoll, S., Jähnig, S.C. & Haase, P.  (2016). Elements of metacommunity structure of river and riparian assemblages: Communities, taxonomic groups and deconstructed trait groups. Ecological Complexity 25: 35-43.

Tonkin, J.D., Stoll, S., Jähnig, S.C. & Haase, P. (2016). Anthropogenic land-use stress alters community concordance at the river-riparian interface. Ecological Indicators 65: 133-141.

Tonkin, J.D., Stoll, S., Jähnig, S.C. & Haase, P. (2016). Contrasting metacommunity structure and beta diversity in an aquatic-floodplain system. Oikos. 125: 686–697.

Kuemmerlen M., Stoll, S., Sundermann, A. & Haase, P. (2015). Predicting stream macroinvertebrate distributions in the LTER-site Rhine-Main-Observatory: Long-term monitoring data meets high-resolution, catchment-based SDMs. Ecological Indicators 65: 122-132. 

Stoll, S., Frenzel, M., Burkhard, B., Adamescu, M., Augustaitis, A., Baeßler, C., Bonet, F.J., Cazacu, C., Cosor, G.L., Díaz-Delgado, R., Carranza, M.L., Grandin, U., Haase, P., Hämäläinen, H., Loke, R., Müller, J., Stanisci, A., Staszewski, T. & Müller, F. (2015). Assessment of spatial ecosystem integrity and service gradients across Europe using the LTER Europe network. Ecological Modelling 295: 75–87.

Frosch, C., Kraus, R.H.S., Angst, C., Allgöwer, R., Michaux, J., Teubner, J. & Nowak, C. (2014). The genetic legacy of multiple beaver reintroductions in Central Europe. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97619.

Nowak, C., Büntjen, M., Steyer, K., Frosch, C. (2014). Testing mitochondrial markers for noninvasive genetic species identification in European mammals. Conservation Genetics Resources, 6(1): 41-44.

Kappes, H., Stoll, S. & Haase, P. (2012). Differences in field behavior between native gastropods and the fastspreading invader Arion lusitanicus auct. non Mabille. Belgian Journal of Zoology 142: 49-58.



During the past years, several studies have been conducted within the Rhine-Main-Observatory for a variety of different taxonomic groups, amongst others including:

  • Riparian plants
  • Carabid beetles
  • Epigeic spiders
  • Snails
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Fungi

Further research focused on eco-hydrological modeling and evaluating the relationship of ecological quality and stream morphology.

Master theses (selection):

  • Biljana Ciganović (2013): Biodiversity patterns during a two-year period in the Kinzig River watershed
  • Jonas Benedict Werdecker (2014): Vielfalt und Ökosystemsleistungen von Pilzen in der Bulau, Hessen
  • Julian Meurer (2012): Modeling the Impact of Climate Change on Hydrology and Sediment Balance in a Low Mountain Range River Basin
  • Philippa Maria Breyer (2012): Skalenabhängiger Einfluss der Gewässerstrukturgüte auf die ökologische Qualität des Makrozoobenthos- Hinweise für die Renaturierungspraxis


The RMO is part of the LTER-D (Long Term Ecological Research Germany) network and thereby linked to the regional LTER-Europe and the international ILTER network.