What is the impact of humans on nature? Are nature conservation areas being properly maintained? How does climate change affect plant species and ecosystems? Professor Rüdiger Wittig studies the development of and changes in vegetation in Germany, in particular in cities, forests and nature conservation areas. Wittig is also involved in projects in the West African savannah, where he studies the consequences of global change on both biodiversity and on human beings. He records the prevalence of plant species at various points in time, analyses them and compares them to previous inventories of plants. This data allows tracing of the developments which Wittig and his research group seek to substantiate. The group employs molecular genetic methods to study plants that are particularly sensitive to heat or drought – and therefore particularly threatened by climate change. Their findings show that species mutation and species combination occurs more rapidly in habitats that have been severely impacted or destroyed by man than in natural or undisturbed, near-natural habitats and forests. This suggests that the direct impact of human beings currently has a greater impact biodiversity than the climate change in both Central Europe and Africa.
The research group's findings result in predictions about the future of species and biotopes, as well as in recommendations for both supportive and protective measures. They also study the effectiveness of the measures already in place. As Wittig explains "In our research we strive to develop constructive approaches which ensure that human interference in natural ecosystems is kept to a minimum and that anthropogenic ecosystems are managed on a sustainable basis. Only then will it be possible for each country to preserve habitats, species and genetic diversity". To this end he has established a number of cooperative research projects, for example in Africa, where he investigates the spread of the savannah as a result of animal husbandry, the importance of the use of wild plants. and the ongoing threat of desertification in many regions.
In his teaching Wittig desires to acquaint students with the complex conditions that have an impact on vegetation and to encourage them to rigorously examine the processes involved in ecological development.
Rüdiger Wittig studied biology und chemistry in Münster and obtained his doctorate there at the botanical institute on "The vegetation of the wall hedges of the Westphalian Basin". As a postdoctoral researcher, he conducted research on efficiency in nature conservation and received his Habilitation from Münster University in 1980 on the topic of "The protected moors, heaths and oligotrophic waters of the Westphalian Bight". From 1980 until 1988 Wittig was a professor of geobotany at the University of Düsseldorf. In 1989 he accepted an appointment as professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt. There he was active in cofounding the "Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies" (ZIAF), the "BioFrankfurt Network" and the "Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre" (BiKF) of the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and of the Goethe University Frankfurt.
Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Wittig
Institute of Ecology, Evolution und Diversity
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13 (Biologicum, Flügel C)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42130