Satellitenaufnahme von der „Al Wadj Bank“ im nordöstlichen Roten Meer, Saudi-Arabien.
Satellite image of the “Al Wadj Bank” in the northeastern Red Sea, Saudi Arabia. Large tracts of the Red Sea coast have yet to be explored and still contain largely intact ecosystems. The “Al Wadj” Bank, for example, is home to approximately 260 species of corals.

Biodiversity and Environment

Biodiversity and ecosystem functions are of the utmost importance to humans: They provide us – free of charge, so to speak – with clean water, food and raw materials, and they have a stabilizing effect on the climate. Global change has had serious effects on them, and hence also on the so-called ‘ecosystem services’. The challenge today is to find ways of counteracting these encroachments.

New Methods for new Strategies

Sustainable adaptation and management strategies must be developed, and these must be accompanied by national and international agreements and legislation. Senckenberg is taking an active part in the implementation of such provisions: We are developing innovative methods for detecting the more ‘elusive’ species listed in the Habitats Directive (genetic monitoring, environmental DNA). We are also elaborating new standard methods for registering soil organisms that are to be used in the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, as well as hydro-acoustic techniques for monitoring species communities on the sea bed (EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive).

Long-term Data for Ecosystem Research

Generally, ecosystems change only very slowly. It is a challenging task to distinguish between short-term fluctuations and long-term trends. Reliable findings and forecasts can only be established on the basis of observation covering a sufficiently long time. Senckenberg can avail itself of a unique stock of long-term data for a range of different marine, limnic and terrestrial ecosystems. One of our most important aims is to connect these long-term data series into a useful network. To this end, we are participating in various international projects such as BIOTA, FONA and Edaphobase, EnvEurope or EU BON. Senckenberg is also involved in the international LTER network (Long-Term Ecosystem Research).   

Detailed Studies as Supplements

In addition to the long-term studies, detailed investigations on the way ecosystems function and how species interact are essential. They help us to interpret the long-term studies, and also deepen our understanding of fundamental biotic processes generally. Two examples of such studies carried out by the Senckenberg research facilities may be mentioned here: an investigation of mutual interaction networks between seeding plants and seed-disseminating birds and the comparative analysis of food webs in various areas of the Wadden Sea.