Institute of



Silke Boldt / Anke Steinmann
Institute of Biodiversity

Bundesallee 65
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 2502
Phone: +49 531 596 2503
Fax: +49 531 596 2599


Diversity of life in agroecosystems: utilization and protection

Our research aims to investigate where, which and how often plants, animals and micro-organisms appear in agroecosystems and in agricultural landscapes, what functional role these organisms play there and how this biodiversity reacts to the type and intensity of agricultural land use and other influential factors. We network our research with other disciplines and work on comprehensive assessments of biodiversity issues which are necessary for agro-policy decisions for sustainable use and protection of biodiversity.

The variety of living organisms is earth’s most important resource. The countries that have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, including Germany, have committed themselves to maintaining biodiversity. For centuries agriculture has ensured a high degree of biodiversity in our landscapes. In recent decades, however, the developments in the agricultural sector have resulted in negative effects on diversity. In response to this development the European Union has raised the topic biodiversity to one of the core issues in its latest agricultural reform ("greening").

This moves important questions into centre stage of the agro-policy agenda: which target conditions are desirable and necessary for biodiversity, what management options are there for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and how are they to be assessed? In order to come up with sound natural science-based answers to such questions, we expand the work area "agrobiodiversity at the landscape scale" to become a main focus of the Institute's research. We intend to network with other activities related to this topic in order to be able to assess biodiversity issues at large spatial scales up to Germany as a whole.

Besides above-ground diversity, we are also interested in the “non-visible” biodiversity in the soil. In one cubic metre of soil there are more organisms than people in the world. The soil organisms and their functions and services, respectively, are of key importance for the sustainability of agriculture. Agricultural policy led by the commitment of sustainability should therefore also encompass how different farming systems impact soil life and how a high degree of soil fertility can be ensured. Questions related to these issues are in the focus of the work area "Soil biology" at the Institute.

Current innovative research activities in the work area "Biodiversity and climate change" that are mainly carried out by sophisticated experimental investigations on the impact of climate change on agricultural ecosystems and crops will be gradually phased out.

The Institute´s methodological competences are in the following areas:

  • Process-level analyses at the laboratory and at the field scale (e.g. molecular-biological tools, ecosystem manipulation experiments),
  • Field studies at the level of farms and groups of farms,
  • Analysis of biodiversity at large spatial scales,
  • Use of models as scale-specific and cross-scale tools.

Fields of Activity



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