Integrative Biodiversity Research – a young discipline under time pressure


Subsequently to the iDiv Opening, sDiv hosted the workshop "Integrative Biodiversity Research – a young discipline under time pressure". The workshop aimed at bringing together the key figures involved in this national process, as well as international experts, in order to distill the essence of our joint vision of the new discipline of integrative biodiversity research and craft it into a high-impact publication. Involving many keyplayers of biodiversity research was necessary to achieve this goal, but as the number of people for a successful workshop is limited, we could invite only a restricted number of iDiv members (the 25 main applicants, the ten GMA speakers, the iDiv committee representatives, and one additional person per iDiv partner institute). To this group of people, we added speakers of leading German platforms, representatives of museums, the keynote speakers, as well as people from our scientific advisory board and other Synthesis Centres.

The 1.5 days have been very stimulating. We heard a lot of inspiring talks and had very fruitful subsequent discussions. Adding on the key note talks from the opening symposium by Michel Loreau, Georgina Mace, James Prosser, Drew Purves, and David Richardson the discussed themes were introduced by short key-note talks and were elaborated further in break-out groups and plenary discussions.

The goal of this workshop was to bring together the key figures involved in this national process, as well as international experts, in order to distill the essence of our joint vision of the new discipline of integrative biodiversity research and craft it into a high-impact publication. We plan to structure our discussion along three themes:

(1) Definition and key questions: What is integrative biodiversity research – and what is it not? What are its most pressing questions, what are its foundations? Are we witnessing the birth of new discipline – comparable to the emergence of ecology in the 20th Century? What are the key elements of a curriculum in ‘integrative biodiversity research’? …

(2) Approaches: Where do we need theoretical and methodological advances most urgently? Which infrastructures, key experiments and observations are currently lacking? What is the right balance of generating new and synthesizing existing (big) data? …

(3) Communication: Advancing science vs. ‘saving the world’: How can we perform basic research and have a ‘real-world impact’ at the same time? How can we integrate feedback from stakeholders and politicians into our research agendas? What does IPBES expect from us? How can we best share our fascination to spark enthusiasm and appreciation for biodiversity? …

Speakers and talk titles:

Friday, 19.04.2013

  • Prof. Christian Wirth (Managing director of iDiv, Leipzig University): “What is integrative biodiversity research and how can we boost it with iDiv?”
  • Prof. Georgina Mace (Centre for Population Biology; University College London; UK): “Biodiversity conservation: can we afford to care in a resource hungry world?”
  • Prof. David Richardson (Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University; ZA): “Aliens everywhere! Invasive species, novel ecosystems & ecosystem functioning in a changing world”
  • Prof. Michel Loreau (Centre for Biodiversity Theory and Modelling, Moulis; FR): “From populations to ecosystems: Towards a unifying ecological theory”
  • Drew Purves (Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group, Microsoft Research Cambridge; UK): “Predictive Modelling of Biodiversity”
  • Prof. James Prosser (Chair in Molecular & Cell Biology, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen; UK): “Microbes – so small, so diverse, so what?”
  • Prof. Thomas Bruns (Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, UC Berkeley; USA): “Toward a global view of fungi biodiversity: challenges and opportunities”

Saturday, 20.04.2013

  • Biodiversity Research centers worldwide” – a first glance (M. Winter/ J. Gaikwad; iDiv)
  • iDiv (H. Bruelheide; iDIv/Univ. Halle)
  • Consortium Oldenburg/Bremen - Input slides by provided by H. Hillebrand (presenter: H. Bruelheide)
  • Consortium Berlin/Potsdam (now BBIB) (M. Rillig; FU Berlin )
  • Consortium Göttingen (U. Brose; Uni Göttingen)
  • “Omics” in biodiversity research (F. Buscot; iDiv/UFZ)
  • (Big) data and data analysis (C. Wirth; iDiv/Univ. Leipzig)
  • Monitoring biodiversity and ecosystem functions (K. Boening-Gaese; Bik-F/Univ Frankfurt)
  • Biodiversity platforms (M. Fischer; Univ. Bern)
  • Communication strategies in iDiv (K. Küsel; iDiv/Univ. Jena)
  • Databases for the public – a Chinese example (Keping Ma; Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • The role of synthesis centers - Cesab - a french perspective (C. Salomon; CESAB)
  • The role of media and knowledge networks (C. Nesshöfer; UFZ)

Working Update

We are currently in the process of sketching a review-type paper about the history, status, future and scientific activities in the field of `integrative biodiversity research´. A short-term informatics specialist is currently developing text-mining algorithms to extract information characterizing the structure and operation of biodiversity centers worldwide. To further support this, we are busy hiring a PostDoc who will support this paper with a literature based analysis of existing biodiversity centers.


For more than a decade the German Science Foundation (DFG) has devoted considerable resources to biodiversity sciences, most notably to large-scale biodiversity experiments and exploratories. German biodiversity research has reached a high level of experience and innovation and has created vast amounts of valuable data and numerous publications. Despite this success, the work to integrate these experiences and data in order to advance our fundamental understanding of biodiversity – its emergence, its functional role and its protection – has just started.

In 2009 the DFG senate commission on biodiversity drafted a white paper stating the need for a research centre promoting this integration. This initiative resulted in an open call for proposals for the foundation of a centre for `integrative biodiversity research` in 2010. Nearly all members of the German scientific community in this field were involved in consortia responding to the call; the five pages of the white paper turned into many hundreds of pages describing visions, research strategies and key questions. The iDiv concept is just one out of many.

Frank Blattner (Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzengenetik), Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, BiK-F) ), Thomas Bruns (University of California), Uli Brose (University Göttingen ), Helge Bruelheide ( Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), François Buscot (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ), Nico Eisenhauer (Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena), Bill Fagan (University of Maryland), Markus Fischer (University of Bern), Karin Frank (UFZ), Jitendra Gaikwad (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig ), Birgit Gemeinholzer (Justus-Liebig-University Gießen), Volker Grimm (UFZ), Ivo Große (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), Hauke Harms (UFZ), Christoph Häuser (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin), Friederike Heinze (iDiv), Isabell Hensen (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), Stefan Klotz (UFZ), Birgitta König-Ries ( Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena), Kirsten Küsel ( Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena), Michel Loreau (Centre for Biodiversity Theory and Modelling), Keping Ma (Chinese Academy of Sciences, IBCAS), Georgina Mace (Imperial College London), Frieder Mayer (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin), Stefan Meldau (Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Ökologie), Carsten Neßhöver (UFZ), Jörg Overmann (Leibniz-Instituts-DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH), James Prosser (University of Aberdeen), Oliver Purschke (iDiv), David Richardson (Stellenbosch University), Matthias C. Rillig (Freie University Berlin), Jacques Roy (Ecotron CNRS), Claire Salomon (Center for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity, Cesab), Martin Schlegel (University Leipzig), Klement Tockner (Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei, IGB), Susan Trumbore (Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie), Wolfgang Weisser (Technische University München), Karsten Wesche (Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde), Marten Winter (iDiv), Christian Wirth (Leipzig University/iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig), Helmut Hillebrand (ICBM-TERRAMARE)

Klaus Henle (UFZ), Gerhard Graf (Lehrstuhl für Meeresbiologie), Johannes Vogel (Museum für Naturkunde), Christian Wilhelm ( University Leipzig), Paul Leadley (Université Paris-Sud), Eric Garnier (Center for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity, Cesab), Ralf Seppelt (UFZ), Markus Reichstein (Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie), Antje Boetius (Alfred-Wegener-Institut Bremerhaven MPI Marine Mikrobiologie), Robin F. A. Moritz (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), Ian Thomas Baldwin (Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Ökologie), Joachim W. Kadereit (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz Fachbereich Biologie), Andreas Kruess (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN), Bernhard Schmid (University Zürich), Stefan Scheu (University Göttingen), Jonathan Gershenzon (Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Ökologie), Christian Anton (Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina e.V. - Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften), Rudolf Amann (Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie), Teja Tscharntke (Georg-August-University Göttingen), Erwin Beck (University Bayreuth), Holger Buschmann (NABU Landesverband Niedersachsen), Wolfgang Stephan (Ludwig-Maximilians-University München), Drew Purves (Microsoft Research Cambridge), Christophe Boesch (Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie), Josef Settele (UFZ)

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