Mission & vision

The Leibniz-IZW conducts evolutionary wildlife research for conservation in order to work towards the vision of understanding and improving the adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change.

The Leibniz-IZW vision comprises two goals: (1) understanding adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change, and (2) designing appropriate conservation interventions to improve this adaptability. The first goal is prerequisite for developing a forecasting framework that allows inferences about which wildlife species are likely threatened by anthropogenic challenges and which ones will persist in modified, novel or degenerated habitats. Such a forecasting framework, in turn, would allow anticipating the need for conservation action. In our second goal, we identify favourable and unfavourable conditions and develop and test interventions to increase population viability of threatened wildlife species.

Our knowledge about the complex interplay between wildlife and their environment is still limited and it is therefore difficult to forecast the response of species to changes in their environment. Such forecasts are urgently needed in order to design appropriate conservation interventions and prioritise resource use for conservation. Since many wildlife species perform key roles in ecosystems, disturbances affecting them are likely to reverberate through the system and lead to the loss of important ecosystem services. Therefore, insights into the mechanisms and consequences of the likely responses of wildlife to anthropogenic pressures are urgently required. We need to know whether individuals, populations, species or species communities have the potential to cope with changes and challenges, under which conditions evolutionary adaptations are likely to fail, whether current conservation interventions are likely to improve the situation, and which factors future interventions should take into account.

Our long-term research strategy reflects these considerations and focuses on the concept of adaptability of wildlife in the face of environmental change. We use adaptability as a term to describe the potential to cope with environmental change. This includes both resistance, the extent to which wildlife is affected by some environmental change, and resilience, the extent and speed at which individuals or a population recover after a challenge in the long term.

Leibniz-IZW research and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Our work is important in the context of two UN Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 “Good health and well-being”, and Goal 15 “Life on land”, the latter comprising the aim to halt biodiversity loss. With regard to health, the Leibniz-IZW contributes to the One Health concept, which acknowledges the insight that the health of humans, all other organisms and the environment are inextricably linked. In this context, we generate insights on the transmission and consequences of diseases in wildlife, a sector that remains neglected compared to the health of humans and domestic animals.

Goal 15 “Life on Land” is of central importance in the current age of the Anthropocene, where virtually all ecosystems on earth are influenced by human activities and 1 Mio species are estimated to be threatened with extinction. Since humans rely on manifold ecosystem services, the foreseeable loss of species will have grave impacts – not only environmental, but also developmental, economic and social. Yet, the scope and consequences of the biodiversity crisis are not being fully recognised by policy makers, economic players and the general public, and efforts to slow down extinction have not proven sufficient. Against this backdrop, the Leibniz-IZW conducts evolutionary wildlife research to provide a scientific basis for biodiversity conservation.