Running Projects

WANDEL - Water resources as important factors in the energy transition at the local and global level

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Water and energy are crucial to sustainable development, both globally and within Germany. WANDEL focuses on the question of whether limited water availability restricts the use of conventional energy systems and thereby accelerates the energy transition, or whether it actually slows the transition down. The project will demonstrate how energy generation impacts water resources locally and regionally (using four case studies in Germany, Brazil and Morocco), and it will also investigate the long-distance effects on other regions around the world from the perspective of water availability. WANDEL will adopt an interdisciplinary approach with multiscale consideration of the direct and indirect effects of energy generation on water resources. It will link data-based and model-based analyses of various energy scenarios with their direct and long-distance effects on the water sector. The project will use the case studies to map out regulatory and technical solutions for reducing negative impacts. It will also provide qualified consultancy services, and use a Web GIS to innovatively present the results and facilitate their use.

AFL - Alliance for Freshwater Life

The vision: A world in which people look below the water surface - to understand, appreciate and protect freshwater biodiversity.

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Although freshwaters cover less than one percent of the earth's surface, they are among the most species-rich habitats on our planet. But rivers and lakes are affected by a rapid decline in biological diversity. The reasons for this are water and land use concepts in which the protection of freshwater biodiversity is not sufficiently taken into account.

The Alliance for Freshwater Life (AFL) was officially launched during the World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2018. The AFL is an international network of currently 23 partners supported by five pillars: Research; data and synthesis; public relations and education; nature conservation; politics. The AFL was initiated by researchers of the IGB, among others. The AFL is a commitment for all participants from research, nature conservation and politics to bundle their expertise and put the topic on the political and societal agenda.

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MEGAFAUNA - Diversity and risk patterns of freshwater megafauna

Rivers and lakes cover just about one percent of Earth's surface, but are home to one third of all vertebrate species worldwide. At the same time, freshwater life is highly threatened. The project aims to gain a comprehensive picture of the global freshwater megafauna, which include animals that spend a significant part of their life histories in freshwater or brackish ecosystems and could gain a body mass of 30 kg or more.

Five research questions are embedded within this project:

  • Where are regions of freshwater megafauna diversity hotspots?
  • Where are regions of potential conflict between human activities and freshwater megafauna diversity?
  • What are the main threats to freshwater megafauna?
  • How did populations of global freshwater megafauna change over the last four decades?
  • Which factors predispose freshwater megafauna to extinction?

The project established a comprehensive freshwater-megafauna database, with information on their distribution, conservation status, main threats, population changes and life-history traits.  In addition, the potential of freshwater megafauna in promoting freshwater biodiversity conservation will be/ was explored.

First answers to the questions can be found in the following studies and links.

He F, Jähnig SC. 2019. Put freshwater megafauna on the table before they are eaten to extinction. Conservation Letter, Correspondence. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12662

He F, Zarfl C, Bremerich V, David JNW, Hogan Z, Kalinkat G, Tockner K, Jähnig SC. 2019. The global decline in freshwater megafauna populations. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14753

He F, Bremerich V, Zarfl C, Geldmann J, Langhans SD, David JNW, Darwall W, Tockner K, Jähnig SC. 2018. Freshwater megafauna diversity: patterns, status and threats. Diversity and Distributions 24(10):1395-1404.

He F, Zarfl C, Bremerich V, Henshaw A, Darwall W, Tockner K, Jähnig SC. 2017. Disappearing giants: a review of threats to freshwater megafauna. WIREs Water, e1208.

Carrizo SF, Jähnig SC, Bremerich V, Freyhof J, Harrison I, He F, Langhans SD, Tockner K, Zarfl C, Darwall W. 2017. Freshwater Megafauna: Flagships for Freshwater Biodiversity under Threat. BioScience 67(10):919–927.

Further information on the subject of threatened aquatic biodiversity:

This project was carried out within the SMART Joint Doctorate (Science for the MAnagement of Rivers and their Tidal systems), funded with the support of the Erasmus Mundus programme of the European Union. More information can be found at

Living Water - Research Agenda on Biodiversity of Inland and Coastal Waters

Inland and coastal waters are home to a unique diversity of life. At the same time, streams, rivers, lakes, small still waters, wetlands, estuaries and groundwater in Germany – and worldwide – are among the most threatened ecosystems. In contrast to terrestrial or marine ecosystems, however, the loss of biological diversity in inland waters has so far hardly been the focus of public attention. Researchers from 20 German scientific institutions want to raise awareness of the “silent” crisis and have presented a joint research agenda. The position paper, coordinated by Dr. Sonja Jähnig, scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), was presented at the 15th BMBF Forum for Sustainability (FONA) in Berlin.

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ECOWATER – Global scale assessment of effects on changed discharge regimes on the occurrence of benthic invertebrates in rivers

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While previous research on impact of climate change on freshwater ecosystems focussed primarily on the effects of predicted increases in temperature, it is expected that the climate-induced hydrological changes in form of significant flow regime modifications in rivers will lead to significant changes in the biological community.

The aim of this project is, in this hitherto scarcely examined field, to derive from the combined analysis of ecological and hydrological data or model results, for the first time quantitative relationships between flow changes and their ecological consequences. The effects will be examined for the exemplary taxonomic group of macroinvertebrates. We are aiming at developing a methodological framework that will be applicable world-wide; we start with Europe because of the fairly good data availability.

Niche evolution of Tibetan-Himalayan Rhyacophilidae (Trichoptera)

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In the first phase of DFG research cluster PAK 807/1 Origin and Evolution of Tibetan-Himalayan biotas we assessed the deeper diversification, biogeography and niche evolution of the caddisfly genus Himalopsyche in the Himalaya/Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) region. In the second phase, we will focus on recent biodiversity evolution, i.e. intraspecific diversification and species-level niche differentiation. These processes are most likely associated with species range contractions and expansions during glacial cycles. The objective of this follow-up proposal is thus to study the phylogeography and niche differentiation of selected caddisfly species in the Himalayan/QTP region. Specifically we will 1) compare the phylogeography of two alpine/subalpine species pairs of Himalopsyche along the Himalayan range and the Hengduan Mountains with a large-scale multi-locus phylogeographic approach based on anchored hybrid enrichment (AHE) data to test hypotheses using a coalescent analytical framework; and 2) develop a high-resolution spatial dataset of relevant freshwater environmental layers along the stream network occupied by our target species. Using these data, as well as paleoclimate and paleovegetation models generated in the umbrella project (Proposal A: Hickler et al. Neogene dynamics of climate and biomes as potential drivers of diversification patterns in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) region), we will then A) assess genetic population structure and infer the demographic and migratory history of the target species; B) elucidate putative niche differentiation of the alpine/subalpine species pairs, including climate niches and biome associations; and C) infer the historical distributions in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and Last Interglacial (LIG) based on a comparison of species distribution model experiments and molecular data analysis. The project will generate insights on the importance of topography on migration patterns of aquatic insects and the role of mountain ranges as species pumps under environmental change.