Biodiversity at the centre of the joint spring reception of the Leopoldina and the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends. Biodiversity is currently high on the political and media agenda. The Leopoldina is also concerned with the biological diversity of genes, species and ecosystems, as was the case on the 5th of April at the joint spring reception of the National Academy of Sciences and the Leopoldina Academy Circle of Friends. The focus was on the return of large wild animals to Central Europe.
Species such as beaver, wolf and elk, which were thought to be extinct, are now finding their way back into the landscape.
Prof. Dr Tobias Kümmerle (Berlin), alumnus of the Junge Akademie (JA), and Prof. Dr Stephanie Kramer-Schadt (Berlin) offered an informative and exciting insight into their research. They investigate the recolonisation of Central Europe by various large mammals, shed light on the potential of densely populated regions as habitats for the returnees as well as the coexistence of humans and animals in Central Europe and elsewhere. They presented in detail the role of predators at the end of the food chain. For example, lynx and wolves reduce the populations of deer and roe deer and cause behavioural changes in their prey - which in turn promotes the regenerative capacity of forest ecosystems. At the same time, the expansion of forest areas in large parts of Central and Eastern Europe enables the (re-)settlement of large herbivores such as bison and elk. This process is also underpinned by model-based analyses. In the discussion that followed, moderated by JA member Dr Christian Hof (Munich), many questions were directed at the progressive colonisation of Germany by the wolf and the necessity and risks of its regulation. All those present agreed that, in view of the often heated debate, there is a need for objectification that can be based on scientific studies and evidence-based recommendations. In this sense, the experts concluded that it is possible for humans and large wild animals to live together - as developments in other regions of the world also show.
Podium discussion about the return of wolves to wisents back to Europe. Photo: Michael Deutsch