Department of Conservation Biology

At the Department of Conservation Biology, we integrate research across the disciplines of population biology, landscape ecology and land-use science. We share the vision that conservation science needs to bridge the gap between research and implementation by involving stakeholders and by building capacity. Our research outputs are used to advance conservation policies and influence decision making.
We cover a variety of research areas, currently focusing on three major topics:

How and where does biodiversity change?
We quantify biodiversity change across time and space to develop hypotheses about drivers behind this change, to identify species of conservation concern and to provide guidance for conservation managers.
We collaborate with organizations that run structured biodiversity monitoring programs. We are also interested to advance the use of citizen science data to assess temporal changes and spatial distributions of species.

How does land-use change affect biodiversity?
We are especially interested in the effects of changing land-use on biodiversity. We assess patterns and drivers of land-use change and their interactions with other landscape-scale processes such as wildfire, or predator behaviour. We aim to understand the effects of land abandonment, land-use intensification, deforestation and forest disturbance on biodiversity. We predict how species communities reorganize after land-use change, how they react to land-use legacies, and how they change along gradients of land-use intensity. We conduct detailed studies on single species to understand the mechanisms of decline and to develop effective management options. This includes reproductive ecology and interactions with predators. Our research also covers biodiversity responses to interacting drivers, such as land abandonment and fire, or climate change and forest management.

How can wildlife and humans co-exist?
We strive to understand and mitigate arising conflicts between humans, their livestock and wildlife, especially large carnivores. Current projects cover Eurasian Lynx in Germany, Persian Leopards in Iran and Snow Leopards in Nepal. We also evaluate the effectiveness of protective measures against carnivore attacks, and the role and effectiveness of protected areas for wildlife conservation.

Methodologically, we develop and test practical measures to restore depleted populations, guided by quantitative research and monitoring. This has included agri-environmental measures aiming to halt negative farmland bird population trends, and habitat management to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

Geographically, we work in many systems and places. Key regions of current research include the grasslands of Central Asia (especially Kazakhstan), the Middle East, tropical forests in Central Africa, as well as farmland and forests in Germany.