Blue-Green Biodiversity Research Initiative

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

Graphic: 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?


September 23, 2022

September 23, 2022Insects that live entirely or partly in freshwater have a much lower proportion of invasive species than insects that live on land. This is shown in a study by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Eawag and an international team of researchers.

Read more

Blue-Green Biodiversity

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.

Phase 1: 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 2020

  • 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 for 2020

Project 1 The architecture of community structure, functional traits and trophic networks across blue-green ecosystems
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag) and Prof. Dr. Loïc Pellissier (WSL)
Postdoc: Hsi-Cheng Ho
Collaboration: 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) and Prof. Dr. Christoph Vorburger (Eawag)
Postdoc: Helen Moor
Collaboration: Simon Egger (canton of 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) and Dr. Nele Schuwirth (Eawag)
Postdoc: Friederike Gebert
Collaboration: Martin K. Obrist (WSL), Florian Altermatt (Eawag)
Project 4 Contrasting patterns and processes of biological invasions in blue versus green ecosystems
Project lead: Dr. Eckehard Brockerhoff (WSL) and Dr. Marco Baity-Jesi (Eawag)
Postdoc: Agnieszka Sendek
Collaboration: 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) and Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Eawag)£
Postdoc: Mark Wong
Collaboration: 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) and Dr. Blake Matthews (Eawag)
Postdoc: Shyamolina Ghosh
Collaboration: 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 30 years?
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Felix Kienast (WSL) and Dr. Manuel Fischer (Eawag)
Postdoc: Ueli Reber
Collaboration: Rolf Grütter (WSL), Anna Hersperger (WSL), Karin Ingold (Eawag), Olga Koblet (Univ. Zürich), Ross Purves (Univ. Zürich)
Project 8 Predator coupling of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems: the importance of nutritional diversity of prey
Project lead: Dr. Blake Matthews (Eawag) and Prof. Dr. Catherine Graham (WSL)
Postdoc: Ryan Shipley
Collaboration: 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) and Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL)
Postdoc: Giulia Donati
Collaboration: Peter Marcus Bach (Eawag), Achilleas Psomas (WSL)
Project 10 Warming-related community turnover in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems
Project lead: Dr. Anita Narwani (Eawag) and Dr. Christian Rixen (WSL)
Postdoc: Imran Khaliq
Collaboration: 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) and Dr. Yann Vitasse (WSL)
Postdoc: Jelle Lever
Collaboration: Alexander Damm-Reiser (University of Zurich), 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) and Prof. Dr. Niklaus E. Zimmermann (WSL)
Postdoc: Luiz Jardim de Queiroz
Collaboration: 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) and Prof. Dr. Ole Seehausen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Ian McFadden
Collaboration: 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)

Phase 2: BGB 2021–2024

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 2021-2024

  • 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 2021 - 2024

Blue: Research and Education projects with a PhD
Grey: Implementation projects

Project 1 Blue-green stormwater infrastructure meets biodiversity in the city (Benefit)
Project lead: Dr. Lauren Cook (Eawag) and Dr. Marco Moretti (WSL)
Postdoc: Andreas Dietzel
PhD student: Kilian Perrelet
Collaboration: 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) and Prof. Dr. Carsten Schubert (Eawag)
Postdoc: Maja Ilic
PhD student: Bastiaan Drost
Collaboration: 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: PD Dr. Anita Risch (WSL) and  Dr. Francesco Pomati (Eawag)
PhD student: Valentin Moser
Collaboration: 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) and Dr. Elisabeth Janssen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Francesca Pittino
PhD student: Juliana Oliveira
Collaboration: Sabine Fink (WSL)
Project 5 Assessing and designing blue-green conservation strategies for the 21st Century in Switzerland
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Niklaus Zimmerman (WSL) and Prof. Dr. Ole Seehausen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Wenna Ding
PhD student: Oluwadamilola Ogundipe
Collaboration: 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)
Project 6 The land-water-scape: Capacity building across the blue-green interface
Project lead: Florian Altermatt (Eawag) and Prof. Dr. Rolf Holderegger (WSL)
Postdoc: Sabine Güsewell
Collaboration: various scientists of BGB program
Project 7 Enhancing residents’ understanding of blue-green biodiversity through participatory interventions and social learning: A key for successful river restoration planning and implementation
Project lead: Dr. Matthias Buchecker (WSL) and Dr. Nadja Contzen (Eawag)
Postdoc: Marius Fankhauser
Collaboration: Janine Bolliger (WSL), Christopher Robinson (Eawag)
Project 8 BlueGreenNet - Social-ecological networks to enhance biodiversity in peri-urban regions
Project lead: Dr. Manuel Fischer (Eawag) and PD Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL)
Postdoc: Giulia Donati
Collaboration: Peter Bach (Eawag), Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (ETH), Sabine Hoffmann (Eawag), Achilleas Psomas (WSL), Francine van den Brandeler (Eawag)

List of BGB associated projects

Biodiversity change in a warming world
Project lead: Anita Narwani (Eawag), Co-Pl: Christian Rixen (WSL)
Postdoc: Imran Khaliq (Eawag)
Duration: 01.01.2022 - 31.05.2022
Funding body: Eawag's Academic Transition Grant

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, and 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

Publications and Awards


Twining, C. W.; Shipley, J. R.; Matthews, B. (2022) Climate change creates nutritional phenological mismatches, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 37(9), 736-739, doi:10.1016/j.tree.2022.06.009, Institutional Repository
Shipley, J. R.; Twining, C. W.; Mathieu-Resuge, M.; Parmar, T. P.; Kainz, M.; Martin-Creuzburg, D.; Weber, C.; Winkler, D. W.; Graham, C. H.; Matthews, B. (2022) Climate change shifts the timing of nutritional flux from aquatic insects, Current Biology, 32(6), 1342-1349, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2022.01.057, Institutional Repository
Twining, C. W.; Weber, C.; Kowarik, C.; Gossner, M. M.; Graham, C. H.; Matthews, B.; Shipley, J. R. (2022) Zum Fressen gern: unsere Gewässer aus der Vogelperspektive, Wasser, Energie, Luft, 114(2), 68-74, Institutional Repository
Bach, P. M.; Probst, N.; Maurer, M. (2021) Urbane Strategien zur Hitzeminderung. Wie wirksam sind blau-grüne Infrastrukturen?, Aqua & Gas, 101(10), 20-25, Institutional Repository
Donati, G. F. A.; Bolliger, J.; Psomas, A.; Maurer, M.; Bach, P. M. (2022) Reconciling cities with nature: Identifying local Blue-Green Infrastructure interventions for regional biodiversity enhancement, Journal of Environmental Management, 316, 115254 (14 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.115254, Institutional Repository
Reber, U.; Fischer, M.; Ingold, K.; Kienast, F.; Hersperger, A. M.; Grütter, R.; Benz, R. (2022) Integrating biodiversity: a longitudinal and cross-sectoral analysis of Swiss politics, Policy Sciences, 55, 311-335, doi:10.1007/s11077-022-09456-4, Institutional Repository
Gebert, F.; Obrist, M. K.; Siber, R.; Altermatt, F.; Bollmann, K.; Schuwirth, N. (2022) Recent trends in stream macroinvertebrates: warm-adapted and pesticide-tolerant taxa increase in richness, Biology Letters, 18(3), 20210513 (7 pp.), doi:10.1098/rsbl.2021.0513, Institutional Repository
Moor, H.; Gossner, M. M.; Graham, C.; Hobi, M. L.; Logar, I.; Narwani, A.; Reber, U.; Seehausen, O.; Holdereger, R.; Altermatt, F. (2022) Besserer Biodiversitätsschutz in Blau-Grünen Ökosystemen. Des écosystèmes bleus-verts pour mieux protéger la biodiversité, Nature et Paysage. Natur und Landschaft: Inside, 25-29, Institutional Repository
Donati, G. F. A.; Bolliger, J.; Psomas, A.; Maurer, M.; Bach, P. M. (2021) Blau-grüne Infrastuktur: eine Möglichkeit zur Förderung der biologischen Vielfalt in vom Menschen geprägten Landschaften? Les infrastructures bleues-vertes: une opportunité pour améliorer la biodiversité dans les paysages dominés par l'homme?, Nature et Paysage. Natur und Landschaft: Inside, 41-44, Institutional Repository
Moor, H.; Gossner, M. M.; Graham, C.; Hobi, M. L.; Holderegger, R.; Reber, U.; Altermatt, F.; Logar, I.; Matthews, B.; Narwani, A.; Seehausen, O.; Shipley, R. (2021) Biodiversitätsschutz dank Ökosystem-übergreifendem Denken. Forschungsinitiative Blau-Grüne Biodiversität (BGB), Aqua & Gas, 101(12), 44-49, Institutional Repository

Reber, U., Fischer, M., Ingold, K., Kienast, F., Hersperger, A., & Grütter, R. (2021). Die vielen Gesichter der Biodiversitätspolitik. Hotspot, 44, 9.
HOTSPOT 44.2021 deutsch WEB 31.10.2021.pdf (

Roth L., Bolliger J., Donati G. 2021. Auswirkungen von zukünftigen Landnutzungsszenarien auf Amphibien im Kanton Aargau. N+L Inside 3/21.

Blue-Green Biodiversity
A research initiative of Eawag & WSL



Co-Leaders of the research initiative

   Prof. Dr. Catherine    Graham
   Tel. +41 44 739 23 61

Media enquiries

Bärbel Zierl, Communication Eawag
Lisa Bose, Communication WSL


9.00 am
University House, Bern

Bridging science and society on Blue-Green Biodiversity

Blue-Green Biodiversity in the media

Wie Biber Fauna und Flora verändern
SRF radio report from 18:27.