Gruner + Jahr | Hamburg, 06/16/2015

Taking Inventory at GEO’s Biodiversity Day

Subject: Environment, Society
Country: Germany
Category: Project

Daubenton’s bat, Elbe love grass, Stratiotes aloides, (a.k.a. water pineapple): these and nearly 1,400 other plant and animal species were itemized by international biologists at last weekend’s 17th GEO Biodiversity Day, sponsored by G+J’s magazine, GEO. The setting of this year’s nature inventory event was the floodplains surrounding the Hohe Garbe Nature Preserve in Saxony-Anhalt. Among the discoveries, participants were especially excited by the very rare black beetle, Tenebrio opacus, a primeval forest relic that lives in dead oak wood and is on the red list of endangered species in Germany. Five species of sac fungus, never before seen in Saxony-Anhalt, were also discovered.

Already in the night to Saturday, bat experts had identified six species. From puddles and ponds, came the croaks of tree frogs, green frogs and fire-bellied toads. Beginning at four in the morning, birdwatchers joined in, spotting a total of 104 species in exceptionally high numbers – more proof of the mead woodland’s high biodiversity. Together with a local farmer, botanists examined the floodplain meadows, identifying around 100 plant species. Achim Förster, woodland expert from BUND, was especially thrilled with the many rare black poplar shoots, which only grow in flood plains such as Hohen Garbe. But due to the extremely dry and cold early summer, Friederike Zinner, together with nine of his students, from Anhalt College, were only able to count ten species of butterflies. Dragonfly experts however, netted 19 types, including a scorpion fly, which, as you might guess, looks like a winged scorpion – tail included.

The occasion of the extensive nature inventory was the 17th GEO Biodiversity Day, and a main event of this year’s project, “Living Floodplains of the Elbe”, from the Association for Environment and Nature Conservation, Germany (BUND). "The high numbers of a variety of species demonstrate that intact floodplains offer a particularly rich habitat. Nowhere else in Central Europe are we able to find so many plants and animals,” said Jörg Nitsch, BUND’s head, who was present. As part of a federal program on biodiversity, the association is working to revitalize these ancient floodplain forests. "Protecting the Hohen Garbe is very important, and its integration into the Elbe’s dynamic is a step in the right direction toward more development opportunities of the natural environment,” added Tom Müller project manager of the GEO Biodiversity Day.

GEO’s Biodiversity Day is Europe’s largest field research campaign to raise awareness of biodiversity. In addition to its main event here, a number of activities took place across Germany and other European countries.