The Leibniz-IZW regular publishes press releases on key findings and insights from its research and on events, awards or personalia. The press releases are distributed directly to journalists on our press release distribution mailing list. Press releases are also disseminated through the distribution services Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, AlphaGalileo and EurekAlert. Are you interested in receiving our press releases directly via e-mail? In this case please send us an email to seet@izw-berlin.de.

Current press releases

Citizen Scientists with a bat detector (photo: Ch. Häberle/Leibniz-IZW)
Citizen Scientists with a bat detector (photo: Ch. Häberle/Leibniz-IZW)

Urbanisation is a notable threat to bat populations all over the world, especially through artificial light and the reduction of habitat and food supply. If certain conditions are met, some spaces within metropolitan areas can be suitable for bats, so managing these spaces appropriately could contribute to bat conservation. With the help of more than 200 citizen scientists in Berlin, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) examined these conditions and investigated how they affect the abundance and distribution of bat species. They conclude that maintaining a low level of artificial light at night is important for all bats in cities. In addition, access to vegetation and water bodies is essential for many of them. The results and conclusions are published in the scientific journal “Environmental Pollution”.

Red Fox, Garden in Berlin, Camera Trap, Foto: Leibniz-IZW
Red Fox, Garden in Berlin, Camera Trap, Foto: Leibniz-IZW

Avoid or compete, eat or be eaten, exploit or cooperate – biotic communities are shaped by species interactions in many different ways. Urban environments represent a special case as human presence and influence may have fundamentally changed the rules of the game. Around 150 wildlife cameras installed by Berlin citizen scientists in their gardens in five rounds from autumn 2018 to autumn 2020 produced tens of thousands of photographs. Their analysis by a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) sheds light on how foxes, racoons, martens and cats get along with people and with each other in the city: All three wild species used the same localities, but with little temporal overlap during the night. All wild species avoided domestic cats. And during lockdowns they were more often recorded, especially at night. These and more insights are published in a recent article in the “Journal of Animal Ecology”.

Killed bats on wind turbine, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW
Killed bats on wind turbine, Foto: Christian Voigt, Leibniz-IZW

Many bats die at wind turbines when colliding with the spinning blades. Currently it is unclear whether all age cohorts or sexes are equally vulnerable. A comparison of age, sex and geographic origin of Nathusius’ pipistrelles killed at wind turbines and living conspecifics from nearby populations now reveals that juveniles are killed more frequently than adults compared to their proportion in local populations. Females are killed more frequently than males – yet in line with their higher proportion in local populations. The high number of killed females and the elevated vulnerability of juveniles may have a negative effect on the long-term survival of populations, indicating that the current practice of wind energy production may not be ecologically sustainable. The investigation was led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and is published in the scientific journal “Ecological Applications”.

Dr Nicole Münnich (photo: Ralf Günther)
Dr Nicole Münnich (photo: Ralf Günther)

Dr. Nicole Münnich takes on the role of Managing Director of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB) on December 1, 2021. She succeeds Dr. Falk Fabich, who was Acting Managing Director from April 2021 following the departure of long-time Managing Director Dr. Manuela Urban.

Field work on bats in the Himalayas (Foto: Emily Stanford)
Field work on bats in the Himalayas (Foto: Emily Stanford)

Million years of evolution have produced a dazzling variety of species, each uniquely adapted to its environment. A straightforward way to measuring biodiversity is by the number of species (taxonomic diversity). Recently, there is growing emphasis to quantify diversity also in other ways: a) functional diversity, which is the diversity of phenotypic traits that allow organisms to perform their ecological functions and b) phylogenetic diversity, meaning the variation in the branches in the tree of life. In a paper published recently in the journal “Scientific Reports” a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) compares these approaches: They found that species richness and functional diversity of Himalayan bat communities decline at high elevation without the loss of phylogenetic diversity. Their findings provide insights on the diversity of bats in the Himalayas and serve as an important baseline in assessing this diversity in the context of environmental changes.

Platform "Keep Nature Alive" (Bild: Steven Seet/Unsplash)
Platform "Keep Nature Alive" (Bild: Steven Seet/Unsplash)

To maximize the effectiveness of its scientific findings in addressing the global biodiversity crisis, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) relies on close interaction with society, including the use of innovative multimedia tools. The platform "Keep Nature Alive" (www.keepnaturealive.de), which was recently spun off from the Leibniz-IZW, continues this path: "Keep Nature Alive" combines digital communication and crowdfunding and in this way aims to establish lively and committed communities for projects at the interface of science and environmental protection. In addition, the platform will be accompanied by communication science - as the first of its kind.

Illuminated Paris at night. Bats need to navigate through this mosaic of illuminated spaces and dark corridors.
Illuminated Paris at night. Bats need to navigate through this mosaic of illuminated spaces and dark corridors.

The artificial illumination of the night by lamps is considered a central achievement of civilisation with countless economic, social and cultural benefits for people. For many animals, however, artificial light poses a considerable challenge. Nocturnal and light-shy species are forced to move to dark areas or adjust their behaviour to the new nocturnal brightness. In a paper published in the journal “BioScience”, an international research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) provides an evidence-based overview of the effects of artificial light on European bat species. They find that especially those species that hunt insects in narrow spaces such as forests are very sensitive to artificial light. In contrast, bats hunting along forest edges or in open areas are somewhat more tolerant of artificial light. At roosts or drinking sites all species are distinctly light-shy.

Najin with project head Prof. Hildebrandt and keeper in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)
Najin with project head Prof. Hildebrandt and keeper in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)

While attempting to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction through advanced assisted reproduction technologies, the scientists and conservationists of the BioRescue consortium place the highest value on respecting the life and welfare of the individual animals involved. In a special, in-depth ethical risk assessment, the team has reached the decision to retire the older of the two remaining females, 32-year-old Najin, as a donor of egg cells (oocytes). This leaves the ambitious programme with just one female that can provide oocytes, Najin’s daughter Fatu. Weighing up risks and opportunities for the individuals and the entire species rendered this decision without an alternative. This situation will further strengthen the need for stem cell associated techniques, which are also part of the BioRescue mission as well as long-term biobanking. Najin will remain an important part of the mission as an ambassador for her kind and by transferring social knowledge to future offspring.