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Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)


The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ was established in 1991 and has more than 1,100 employees in Leipzig, Halle/S. and Magdeburg. They study the complex interactions between humans and the environment in cultivated and damaged landscapes. The scientists develop concepts and processes to help secure the natural foundations of human life for future generations.

The UFZ´s Research Structure

Research at the UFZ is organized into 34 methodical competence centres, the so-called departments. The large number of departments underlines the large range of competences and approaches at the UFZ. The departments are organized into seven divisions, namely:

  • Environmental Systems, Computation and Monitoring
  • Water and Soil Sciences
  • Terrestrial Ecology
  • Environmental Technology
  • Environmental Health
  • Health Research
  • Social Sciences

In terms of its fields of research the UFZ focuses on three core subject areas (Land use options; Biodiversity; Bioenergy) as well as three cross-sectional competence areas. These are assigned to the Helmholtz Research Fields of Earth and Environment (Research programme "Terrestrial Environment" / accounting for 85 percent of UFZ resources), Health (Research Programme "Environmental Health" / 8 percent) as well as Energy (Research Programmes "Renewable Energies" and "Technology, Innovation and Society" / 7 percent).


Biodiversity is imperative for us. It provides healthy and functioning ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Humans have always benefited from the use of biodiversity. No other species on earth has impacted nature to such an extent by shaping and changing landscapes. In doing so mankind has altered and partially irreversibly destroyed biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Although the appreciation of biodiversity appears to have increased on many levels, the rate of implementing appropriate mitigation is still too slow. As a result the European target of stopping the loss of biodiversity by 2010 has clearly been missed. The question now is what kind of world with how much biodiversity we want to have and need in the future.

More than 100 scientists from different disciplines of the natural and social sciences work at the UFZ in search of answers to this question. In doing so we investigate fundamental relationships for example on the impacts of land consumption, fragmented landscapes, invasive species or climate change on plant and animal populations and the functions of ecosystems.

We are trying to find out whether a higher genetic diversity and greater species diversity really ensure that ecosystems are more stable and able to buffer changes.

We regard biodiversity also from an economics point of view, calculate the costs and benefits of making certain decisions and provide systematic knowledge for a sustainable use of the scarce good of biodiversity (TEEB – The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Questions about the risks and opportunities of bioenergy are closely related, as renewable sources of energy are currently dramatically affecting agriculture and forestry, water management, the energy supply and societies. Simulation models help to investigate different development perspectives in the form of scenarios to help make informed decisions about a sustainable bioenergy strategy.


Recent Publications:

  • Ainscough, J., de Vries Lentsch, A., Metzger, M., Rounsevell, M., Schröter, M., Delbaere, B., de Groot, R., Staes, J., (2019): Navigating pluralism: Understanding perceptions of the ecosystem services concept. Ecosystem Services 36 , art. 100892. Full text (URL).
  • Hauenstein, S., Fattebert, J., Grüebler, M., Naef-Daenzer, B., Pe'er, G., Hartig, F., (2019):
    Calibrating an individual‐based movement model to predict functional connectivity for little owls
    Ecol. Appl. full text (url).
  • Fischer, C., Leimer, S., Roscher, C., Ravenek, J., de Kroon, H., Kreutziger, Y., Baade, J., Beßler, H., Eisenhauer, N., Weigelt, A., Mommer, L., Lange, M., Gleixner, G., Wilcke, W., Schröder, B., Hildebrandt, A., (2019): Plant species richness and functional groups have different effects on soil water content in a decade‐long grassland experiment. J. Ecol. 107 (1), 127 - 141 full text (url).
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