Blue-Green Biodiversity Research Initiative

An Eawag-WSL collaboration focusing on biodiversity at the interface of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Animated graphic: Stefan Scherrer, Eawag


Blue-green habitats – hotspots of biodiversity

Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are closely interconnected and enrich each other. However, these hotspots of biodiversity are threatened by human-induced changes, such as climate change, urbanisation and intensive agriculture. The graphic illustrates how the habitats of water and land intertwine and influence each other, as well as the questions the BGB research initiative is investigating.

How is biodiversity changing?

Biodiversity is declining dramatically worldwide. BGB is investigating how species diversity is changing in space and time - both locally, for example, in the Thur catchment area in Switzerland, and also globally with the help of data archives and satellite data. The time periods studied range from a few decades to millions of years.

What influences species diversity?

Land use changes, such as intensified agriculture and urbanisation, climate change, the overexploitation of natural resources and invasive species alter habitats and threaten biodiversity. BGB investigates how these factors influence biodiversity.

How are terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems interconnected?

Ecosystems in water and on land are closely linked. For example, leaves that fall from trees into  water serve as food for microorganisms. These are eaten by predatory insect larvae that leave the water after their final larval stage. On land, these insects serve as particularly nutritious food for birds. BGB aims to study this networked biodiversity holistically.

How can we promote and protect biodiversity?

BGB aims to develop practical recommendations for praxis and policy to stop or at least reduce species loss as quickly as possible. How can habitats in residential areas be networked through blue-green infrastructure? Or, what does successful biodiversity policy look like?

Biodiversity is essential to human life and welfare. The loss of biodiversity is, next to climate change, one of the biggest challenges humanity is facing. Research and action to reverse and mitigate the loss of biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions and services are thus crucially needed. In order to tackle this scientifically and societally urgent topic, the ETH Board has funded a research initiative on Blue-Green Biodiversity (BGB), i.e. the biological diversity at the interface of water and on land. Its goal is to strengthen interdisciplinary biodiversity research within WSL and Eawag, but also within the whole ETH domain and beyond, to understand and respond to challenges associated to species loss and biodiversity change as quickly as possible.

Program phases

BGB 2021–2025

In 2021, longer-term research projects have started, including new experiments, field studies and data collection. Five research- and three implementation-projects aim to further develop themes from BGB 2020, as well as to expand into new cutting-edge research and applied questions, for which data do not already exist. Target research questions will be scientifically challenging and directly relevant for application and/or outreach.

Main objectives 2021-2025

  • Train a cohort of early career researchers in BGB topics
  • Develop and test models of biodiversity change
  • Build capacities to design, implement, and manage measures to conserve and restore biodiversity
  • Outreach and translation to communicate findings to practitioners and the broader public

Funded BGB-projects for 2023-2025

 Project 1 Inter- and transdisciplinarResearch assistanty integration at the interface between science, policy and practice: Empirical insights from the BGB Research Initiative
Project lead: Dr. Sabine Hoffmann (Eawag), Dr. Blake Matthews (Eawag) und PD Dr. Anita Risch (WSL)
Post doc: Jana Thierfelder (Eawag)
Project 2 Gaps within and between International and National Biodiversity Policy
Project lead: PD Dr. Manuel Fischer (Eawag) und Prof. Dr. Catherine Graham (WSL)
Post doc: Dechen Lham (WSL)
Project 3 Integrating biodiversity standards into municipal land-use regulations
Project lead: Prof h.c. Dr. Anna Hersperger (WSL), Prof. Dr. Rolf Holderegger (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag)
Research assistant: Stephanie Schwab (WSL)

Funded BGB projects 2021-2024

Research and Education projects with a PhD

Project 1 Blue-green stormwater infrastructure meets biodiversity in the city (Benefit)
Project lead: Dr. Lauren Cook (Eawag) und Dr. Marco Moretti (WSL)
Postdoc: Andreas Dietzel (Eawag)
PhD student: Kilian Perrelet (Eawag)
Collaborators: João P. Leitão (Eawag), Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Nicole Bauer (WSL), Anna Hersperger (WSL)
Project 2 Food-webs across aquatic-terrestrial environments in forests in the face of climate change
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Martin Gossner (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Carsten Schubert (Eawag)
Postdoc: Maja Ilic (WSL)
PhD student: Bastiaan Drost (WSL)
Collaborators: Marco Moretti (WSL), Marco Lehmann (WSL), Matthias Saurer (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Blake Matthews (Eawag), Anita Narwani (Eawag), Ole Seehausen (Eawag), Christoph Vorburger (Eawag), Andreas Bruder (SUPSI)
Project 3 Species interactions in beaver engineered habitats link land-water ecosystem processes
Project lead: Dr. Anita Risch (WSL) und Dr. Francesco Pomati (Eawag)
Postdoc: Leonardo Capitani (WSL)
PhD student: Valentin Moser (WSL)
Collaborators: Aline Frossard (WSL), Steffen Boch (WSL), Chris Robinson (Eawag), Christof Angst (Biberfachstelle CH), Thomas Kreienbühl (Ecqua), Silvan Minnig (
Project 4 Blue-Green Cyanobacteria: Diversity, Toxins and alpine Tourism
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Christoph Scheidegger (WSL) und Dr. Elisabeth Janssen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Francesca Pittino (WSL)
PhD studentin: Juliana Oliveira
Collaborators: Sabine Fink (WSL)
Project 5 Assessing and designing blue-green conservation strategies for the 21st Century in Switzerland
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Ole Seehausen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Wenna Ding (WSL)
PhD student: Oluwadamilola Ogundipe (WSL)
Collaborators: Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Anita Narwani (Eawag), Blake Matthews (Eawag), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL), Rolf Holderegger (WSL), Martin Gossner (WSL), Kurt Bollmann (WSL), Michael Nobis (WSL), Philipp Brun (WSL)

Implementation projects

Project 6 Die Land-Wasser-Landschaft: Kapazitätsaufbau an der Schnittstelle aquatischer und terrestrischer Ökosysteme
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag) und Prof. Dr. Rolf Holderegger (WSL)
Postdoc: Sabine Güsewell (Eawag)
Collaborators: diverse Forschende der BGB-Initiative
Project 7 Enhancing lay people’s understanding of biodiversity through participatory interventions: A key to successful river restoration
Project lead: Dr. Matthias Buchecker (WSL) und Dr. Nadja Contzen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Marius Fankhauser (WSL)
Collaborators: Janine Bolliger (WSL), Christopher Robinson (Eawag)
Project 8 BlueGreenNet - Social-ecological networks to enhance biodiversity in peri-urban regions
Project lead: PD Dr. Manuel Fischer (Eawag) und Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL)
Postdoc: Giulia Donati (Eawag)
Collaborators: Peter Bach (Eawag), Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (ETH), Sabine Hoffmann (Eawag), Achilleas Psomas (WSL), Francine van den Brandeler (Eawag)


BGB 2020

BGB 2020 identified a core set of questions and comprised 13 funded research projects to support post-doctoral fellows for one year. These projects provided rapid results by focusing on the analysis of existing data to answer topical questions in basic and applied biodiversity science at the interface of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity.

Main objectives

  • Community building, horizon scanning and priority setting to establish new collaborations and address timely questions
  • Analysis of existing data and modelling to obtain greater insight into similarities and inter-connections between aquatic and terrestrial systems
  • Outreach and translation to communicate findings to practitioners and the broader public

Funded BGB projects 2020

Project 1

The architecture of community structure, functional traits and trophic networks across blue-green ecosystems

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag) und Prof. Dr. Loïc Pellissier (WSL)
Post doc: Hsi-Cheng Ho
Collaborators: Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Martin Gossner (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL), Ole Seehausen (Eawag), Niklaus Zimmermann (WSL)

Project 2

Blue-green infrastructure for blue-green lives: modelling use and colonization credit of an ecological infrastructure to inform evidence-based amphibian conservation

Project lead: Dr. Ariel Bergamini (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Christoph Vorburger (Eawag)
Post doc: Helen Moor
Collaborators: Simon Egger (Kanton Aargau), Rolf Holderegger (WSL), Benedikt Schmidt (info fauna karch & UZH)

Project 3 Analysing recent developments in abundance, biomass and species richness of aquatic and terrestrial insects in Switzerland
Project lead: Dr. Kurt Bollmann (WSL) und Dr. Nele Schuwirth (Eawag)
Post doc: Friederike Gebert
Collaborators: Martin K. Obrist (WSL), Florian Altermatt (Eawag),  Rosi Siber (Eawag)
Project 4 Contrasting patterns and processes of biological invasions in blue versus green ecosystems
Project lead: Dr. Eckehard Brockerhoff (WSL) und Dr. Marco Baity-Jesi (Eawag)
Post doc: Agnieszka Sendek
Collaborators: Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Martin Bader (WSL), Martin Gossner (WSL), Martin Obrist (WSL), Andrew Liebhold (US Forest Service / CULS), Hanno Seebens (Senckenberg Biodiv. & Climate Res.), Piet Spaak (Eawag), Christoph Vorburger (Eawag), Thomas Wohlgemuth (WSL)
Project 5 Testing the generality of biotic homogenization by human impact in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems
Project lead: Dr. Martin M. Gossner (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag)
Post doc: Mark Wong
Collaborators: Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Catherine Graham (WSL), Heike Lischke (WSL), Marco Moretti (WSL), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Ole Seehausen (Eawag), Thomas Wohlgemuth (WSL), Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL)
Project 6 Evaluating temporal community structure as a function of environmental variables acting at different scales
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Catherine Graham (WSL) und Dr. Blake Matthews (Eawag)
Post doc: Shyamolina Ghosh
Collaborators: Martin Gossner (WSL), Heike Lischke (WSL), Anita Narwani (Eawag), Christian Rixen (WSL), Ole Seehausen (Eawag), Sarah R. Supp (Denison University), Thomas Wohlgemuth (WSL), Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL)
Project 7 How has Swiss biodiversity policy been performing over the last 20 years?
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Felix Kienast (WSL) und Dr. Manuel Fischer (Eawag)
Post doc: Ueli Reber
Collaborators: Rolf Grütter (WSL), Anna Hersperger (WSL), Karin Ingold (Eawag), Olga Koblet (UZH), Ross Purves (UZH)
Project 8 Predator coupling of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems: the importance of nutritional diversity of prey
Project lead: Dr. Blake Matthews (Eawag) und Prof. Dr. Catherine Graham (WSL)
Post doc: Ryan Shipley
Collaborators: Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Martin Gossner (WSL), Ryan Shipley (MPI-AB), Christine Weber (Eawag)
Project 9 Blue-green infrastructure for biodiversity enrichment in human-dominated landscapes
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Max Maurer (Eawag) und Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL)
Post doc: Giulia Donati
Collaborators: Peter Marcus Bach (Eawag), Achilleas Psomas (WSL)
Project 10 Warming-related community turnover in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems
Project lead: Dr. Anita Narwani (Eawag) und Dr. Christian Rixen (WSL)
Post doc: Imran Khaliq
Collaborators: Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Martin Gossner (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL), Blake Matthews (Eawag), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Francesco Pomati (Eawag), Ole Seehausen (Eawag), Florian Zellweger (WSL), Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL)
Project 11 Global remotely sensed phenology: A unifying Essential Biodiversity Variable for assessing the linkage between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems 
Project lead: Dr. Daniel Odermatt (Eawag) und Dr. Yann Vitasse (WSL)
Post doc: Jelle Lever
Collaborators: Alexander Damm-Reiser (UZH), Petra D’Odorico (WSL), Arthur Martin Gessler (WSL), Luis Gilarranz (Eawag), Christian Ginzler (WSL)
Project 12 Biodiversity assembly in blue and green ecosystems: speciation versus immigration
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Ole Seehausen (Eawag) und Prof. Dr. Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL)
Post doc: Luiz Jardim de Queiroz
Collaborators: Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Jakob Brodersen (Eawag), Catherine Graham (WSL), Blake Matthews (Eawag), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Lukas Rüber (NMBE)
Project 13 Assessing richness differences between blue and green systems by quantifying biodiversity turnover along global gradients
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL) und Prof. Dr. Ole Seehausen (Eawag)
Post doc: Ian McFadden
Collaborators: Florian Altermatt (Eawag), Blake Matthews (Eawag), Martin Gossner (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL), Nicolas Gruber (ETHZ), Martina Hobi (WSL), Loïc Pellissier (WSL), Meike Vogt (ETHZ), Tom Wohlgemuth (WSL)

BGB associated projects

Project details

Rezente Entwicklungen in der Vielfalt und Abundanz aquatischer Insekten in der Schweiz (Recent developments in richness and abundance of aquatic insects in Switzerland)
Project lead: Kurt Bollmann (WSL)
Co-Pl: Nele Schuwirth (Eawag)
Postdoc: Friederike Gebert
Duration: 01.10.2021 - 30.06.2022
Funding body: FOEN (Yael Schindler)
Global analysis of the phenology of supply and demand for n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in consumer diets and its relationship to consumer fitness
Project lead: Blake Matthews, Daniel Odermatt und J. Ryan Shipley (Eawag)
Duration: 01.09.2021 - 30.08.2022
Luis J. Gilarranz (Eawag), Cornelia Twining (Eawag), Jelle Lever (WSL), Catherine Graham (WSL) and Yann Vitasse (WSL)
Funding body: Eawag
Living Lab Bern: Establishing a pre-urbanisation baseline
Project lead: Max Maurer (Eawag)
Co-Pl: Lauren Cook, Peter M Bach, João Leitão (Eawag)
Duration: 09.2021 - 09.2022
Marco Moretti, Janine Bolliger, Anna Hersperger, Matthias Buchecker (WSL), Nadja Contzen, Manuel Fischer (Eawag), Stephanos Anderski, Frank Marti, Judith Dobmann (Stadt Bern)
Funding body: Eawag
Biodiversity assembly in blue and green ecosystems: speciation versus immigration
Project lead: Ole Seehausen (Eawag)
Co-Pl: Niklaus Zimmermann (WSL)
Postdoc: Luiz Jardim de Queiroz
Duration: 01.09.2021 – 31.06.2022
Carmela Dönz, Soraya Villalba, Roman Alther, Špela Borko, Ian R. McFadden, Thomas Schmitt, Florian Altermatt, Jakob Brodersen, Martin Gossner, Catherine Graham, Blake Matthews, Loïc Pellissier, Lukas Rüber
Funding body: Eawag
BIOMONDO - Towards Earth Observation supported monitoring of freshwater biodiversity
Project lead: Petra Philipson, coordinator (Brockmann Geomatics)
Postdoc: Jelle Lever
Duration: 2021-2023
Daniel Odermatt (Eawag), Consortium of Brockmann Geomatics, Brockmann Consult, Eawag, PBL, and Deltares
Funding body: European Space Agency
Seasonal changes and recovery from extreme climatic events as indicators of ecosystem stability and impending regime shifts
Project lead: Jelle Lever (WSL)
Co-Pl: Yann Vitasse & Arthur Gessler (WSL)
Duration: 2021-2022
Funding body: SwissForestLab
Title: Biodiversity change in a warming world
Project lead: Anita Narwani (Eawag)
Co-Pl: Christian Rixen (WSL)
Postdoc: Imran Khaliq (Eawag)
Duration: 01.2022-05.2022
Funding body: Eawag's Academic Transition Grant



Scientific publications