NRW government makes move in Berlin

Center of Biodiversity to come to Bonn

Museumschef Wolfgang Wägele steht zwischen Regalwänden mit ungezählten Schubladen mit Schmetterlingen.

Museum director Wolfgang Wägele stands between shelf walls with countless drawers containing butterflies.

Bonn. The NRW state government wants to bring a new research centre for quantitative research into biodiversity to Bonn. The Koenig Museum is already planning to set up a research centre for biodiversity monitoring on its own initiative.

North Rhine-Westphalia's state government wants to bring a new, government-funded research centre for quantitative research into biodiversity to Bonn. Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) has officially promoted the federal city in letters to her federal colleague, Svenja Schulze (SPD), and Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU), according to press officer Tanja Albrecht on GA demand.

As reported, the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, a member of the Leibniz Association, is planning its own initiative to establish a research centre for biodiversity monitoring that has not yet been established worldwide. Museum director Wolfgang Wägele can create up to nine professorial positions with around 50 scientific staff in Bonn. "The news of the death of insects has shocked the research landscape and shown that we need something like this," Wägele told the GA.

Politicians, too, have now woken up. After almost 1.8 million citizens in Bavaria had voted in a referendum for more species protection of animals and plants, the state governments of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia discussed the topic yesterday at a joint cabinet meeting. Heinen-Esser took the concept of the research museum in Bonn with him. The federal government had already agreed in 2018 in the coalition agreement on the establishment of a corresponding research center. Albrecht reports that the decision as to where the research centre is to be established will be made in early summer. Other cities such as Frankfurt/Main, Berlin or Leipzig are also under discussion. From Berlin political circles it can be heard that a decentralised combined solution is also conceivable.

Wägele - on his way from a business trip to Saxony-Anhalt - is nevertheless pleased with the news from Düsseldorf: "We would be very pleased if our concept found support in Düsseldorf. Hopefully a decision will be made quickly. The problem is pressing. We need innovative research, for which we have done a lot of preparatory work, and an accompanying education at the university, which has the same significance as climate research".

If the two most populous federal states agree on Bonn, this will have a considerable impact on the Federal Government and the Bundesrat. In addition, the people of Bonn are open to joining the Hamburg Centre for Natural History, which is currently run as an institute of the University of Hamburg. It could cover the marine part of biodiversity research and at the same time enable the desired decentralised solution.

At Museum Koenig, the conditions are favourable for a rapid start to work. Here, monitoring methods have already been developed that can automatically collect and make available large amounts of data on the numbers of animals and plants. For example, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has received an application for the construction of a robot that catches insects in the field at regular intervals.

"This enables us to monitor the development of the populations over the course of the year and over longer periods of time," explains Wägele. In this way, a white patch of previous research could be removed: There is currently a lack of reliable figures on the number of individuals, especially small and microorganisms. Together with the University of Osnabrück, the State Office for Nature, the Environment and Consumer Protection is therefore planning its own survey on insect decline in North Rhine-Westphalia. First, the occurrence of butterflies and grasshoppers is to be investigated, reports Albrecht.

Original text: Martin Wein, Translation: Mareike Graepel