Aquatic Ecology Projects


Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF, coordinated by IGB Berlin

Duration: March 2019 to February 2022

The AQUATAG project is the first to quantify recreation along freshwaters in Germany at large spatial scales to assess its effect on the ecological status of these ecosystems. Widespread recreational activities along rivers and lakes like swimming, angling, hiking or canoeing can potentially strongly affect the ecological status. The University of Duisburg-Essen is mainly involved in the work to assess the effects of pressures resulting from recreation as a driver sensu the EU-Water Framework Directive.

Besides affecting the ecological status of rivers and lakes, many recreational activities depend on the naturalness of these ecosystems, and hence are affected by other drivers like urbanization and agriculture similar to the ecological status. In a second part of the project, recreation is therefore rather considered as a response variable together with the ecological status depending on the same drivers and pressures. The objective is to identify synergies and trade-offs between recreation and ecological status. For example, compared to urbanized and polluted rivers, natural reaches are more attractive for canoeing and in a better ecological status, while the usual casual canoeing also requires some degree of human intervention to keep it safe and doable for less experienced people. First empirical studies indicate that rivers in a moderate ecological status are most attractive for recreation but large-scale studies allowing to derive more general management recommendations are missing yet.

Baggersee Project

The study project will be conducted within the “Baggersee Project” as a research collaboration between the University of Duisburg-Essen, Department of Aquatic Ecology, and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB). The main aim of the “Baggersee Project” is to assess freshwater biodiversity in gravel pit lakes in the Lower Saxony region in Germany. Biodiversity of fish, birds, amphibians, dragonflies and macroinvertebrate communities is assessed to gain important information about sustainable management conducted in an ecological way which can improve ecosystem biodiversity.

The “Baggersee Project” includes 20 lakes which are used to analyse the role of sustainable management and increased habitat diversity on the lake biota. The study offered here, will focus on the identification and analysis of the benthic macroinvertebrates.

Contact: Dr. Allessandro Manfrin

Biological assessment of floodplain status

Funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation

Duration: July 2018 to June 2021

The German R&D project "Development of a practical method to assess the biological status of riparian zones and floodplains", is processed in collaboration with Aueninstitut Neuburg (Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt), the Helmholtz Centre for environmental research – UFZ (Leipzig), the ÖKON society of landscape ecology, aquatic biology and environmental planning mbH, and the institute for biodiversity management. The aim of the project is the development of a standardized, practical and a nationwide applicable method to assess the biological floodplain status.

The project includes the theoretical deduction of species indicating the near-natural status of nationwide described floodplain types for the organism groups amphibians, aquatic and terrestrial molluscs, birds, floodplain vegetation, and ground beetles. These indicator species built the basis for the biological assessment. We develop a modular assessment system which allows prospective users to assess the biological floodplain status with regard to different objectives of natural and cultural ecosystems. Biologically relevant characteristics of floodplain types and indicator species lists will be summarized in fact sheets. We will proof the applicability of the assessment procedure for three floodplain types using existing data. Finally, the prospective user will get methodical recommendations for the procedure of biological assessment, nationwide applicable indicator lists and formulas to calculate the biological status.

The main features of the project are based on the already completed study „Machbarkeitsstudie zur biozönotischen Auenzustandsbewertung“ (BfN-Skripten 484).

Land2Sea: integrated modelling of consequences of terrestrial activities and climate change for freshwater and coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystem services

BiodivERsA project, funded by DFG

Duration: January 2019 to December 2021

The overall objective of the project is to develop an integrative framework of coupled models for predicting the immediate and long-term consequences of land-use and climate change for the delivery of nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem services, and the underlying biodiversity and ecosystem processes in freshwater and marine ecosystems. Furthermore, a mechanism for the application of the framework to environmental policy and practice will be designed. Therefore, an interdisciplinary team of researchers will develop scenarios of human and global change associated pressures on terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. On this basis, field experiments and modelling will be conducted at case studies in Ireland, Canada, Sweden and Germany. The resulting stress-response-relationships will be used to construct integrated frameworks of coupled models to predict the consequences of terrestrial anthropogenic activities and derive decision support tools for policy and environmental management.

BONUS FUMARI: Towards improved environmental status assessment and monitoring systems for the Baltic Sea

Funded by the EU’s BONUS Programmme

Duration: October 2018 to September 2020

This project is designed to provide a proposal for a renewed monitoring system of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The suggested monitoring proposal will be based on a review of existing monitoring and data management, highlighting the current gaps, and a review of novel monitoring methods. To increase the overall impact, the researchers of Sweden, Finland and Germany will integrate suggestions of stakeholders at all stages of the work. The renewed monitoring proposal will outline how the Baltic Sea monitoring could be re-organized and supplemented with novel methods to enhance spatial coverage, comparability, sensitivity and cost effectiveness.


BiodivERsA (03/17-02/20) project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF

Duration: March 2017 to February 2020

OSCAR website

Riparian forests are biodiversity hotspots and migration corridors for biota that offer multiple additional functions and ecosystem services like nutrient retention, water temperature regulation, and recreation. Woody riparian buffer strips offer similar benefits that potentially add up and have positive effects far downstream in the river network. Therefore, developing a network of green corridors is among the most promising restoration measures in rivers to enhance biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services for men.

While the principal mechanisms how woody buffers enhance biodiversity and certain ecosystem functions are well understood, there is still a high uncertainty associated with quantifying these general effects. Moreover, most studies deal with the effects of individual woody buffers and there is very limited knowledge on how these effects depend on the spatial arrangement and add up at the catchment scale, and their function as migration corridors has hardly been studied as such. Though there are initial studies on ecosystem services provided by woody buffers, a comprehensive assessment of their ecosystem services and biodiversity is missing.

The existing knowledge on the effect of woody buffers on biodiversity, functions like nutrient retention and water temperature regulation, and ecosystem services is complemented by own studies - especially on large-scale and downstream effects. A set of knowledge rules is developed and applied in different scenarios in four case-study catchments to derive management recommendations how to optimize the overall effect of woody riparian buffers.

Online tools for ecological river assessment

Funded by the German Federal Environment Agency

Duration: October 2016 to September 2019

For the implementation of the Water Framework Directive lakes and streams are assessed ecologically on the basis of so-called "biological quality components" (BQE). For the BQE a number of assessment methods have been developed in the past and operationalized with the help of various software products. These products were first programmed fifteen years ago and have been updated regularly. The updates were largely limited to content-related aspects and the usability of the programs, whereas the basic architectures were not touched.

Against this background the project aims to reprogram the software products PhytoFluss, Phylib, Perlodes, and fiBs. In all cases the previously desktop-based versions are abandoned in favor of a client-server solution. The user no longer has to install the programs on a local computer, but they run centrally on a server. For this purpose files are uploaded in a defined format. The calculation results are then made available to the user and all user-related data is deleted from the server. The implementation is realized in a way that any current web browser can act as a client, so that no special programs need to be installed locally. Nevertheless, all necessary functionalities are provided.

For the user changes in the application can be minimized. All programs use a surface that is not significantly different from a locally installed program. Opening or saving data and displaying the results is done in the well-known way. Only the data bases and the calculations will no longer be executed locally, but server-based. By focusing on a modular architecture, the user interface, data management, calculation of the individual biological components and visualization of the results are separated from each other. Future updates can be made to each of the components without affecting the other modules. The concept of online implementation also eliminates the need to reinstall a software after an update on each individual user PC.

Freshwater Information Platform