Research projects

COSAR (2022-2024)

Up to now, river restoration projects have mainly aimed at restoring local river sections to their natural state in order to provide suitable habitat conditions for greater biodiversity. They usually do not take into account the strong influence of large-scale environmental factors (e.g. land use in the catchment), nor societal needs and benefits (e.g. recreational use). 
Novel concepts that take these factors into account have not yet been tested on larger data sets that would allow general conclusions to be drawn. 
In the COSAR project, we are therefore holistically investigating the influence of the current and historical large-scale context of river restoration on ecological and societal success factors. Together with colleagues from France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, we compare ecological monitoring data with evaluations of social media posts at restored sites in order to draw conclusions about ecological and social benefits.

  • To this end, we first define and quantify ecological and social indicators of the success of restoration and examine their synergies and trade-offs.
  • We then determine the historical, biotic, abiotic and sociological conditions under which restoration success is achieved on the basis of these indicators.
  • In this way, we identify the relevant drivers and their scales that are conducive or obstructive to achieving the restoration goals.
  • From this we develop a tool that can be used in restoration planning to apply the knowledge gained.
  • In addition, we provide fact sheets and highlight best practice examples for restoration planning.

In this transdisciplinary project, we emphasise stakeholder involvement in all steps of the work. The stakeholders from all countries involved in the project represent the interests of various user groups in the field of river restoration. This ensures the practice-oriented research direction of the project.
We provide practitioners in the field of restoration and the general public with newly acquired knowledge and tools to promote the ecological and social benefits of river restoration and to achieve the goals of the Water Framework Directive and many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Traun - PARTNER (2021-2023)

In a participatory process, we are developing a water management plan for the Traunbach catchment in Hunsrück together with local stakeholders. Here, we not only focus on the good ecological status but also integrate other ecosystem services. The project is a research collaboration together with the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy and Mobility of Rhineland-Palatinate
Duration: 2021-2023
Soon you will find more about the project here!

Optimization of restoration for biodiversity and ecosystem services (2017-2021)

Funded by: Bauer-Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Forschung, Rudolf and Helene Glaser Foundation.

Rivers are hotspots of biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services (ES). Nevertheless, many of the European freshwaters are in a particularly “bad state” based on the Water Framework Directive assessment. Inland waters, and particularly rivers, have undergone anthropogenic alterations which have led to loss of ecological value in the form of ecosystem biodiversity and functioning. Although in the last few years efforts have been made to ecologically restore watercourses and floodplains, the ecological effectiveness of these actions has been very limited or not properly evaluated. A lack of understanding of ecological river processes and spatio-temporal dynamics of river communities and ecosystems is likely the main cause. Therefore, an increase of the ecological knowledge of river restoration become fundamental in order to be able to both perform and evaluate restoration actions in a proper standardized manner.
The current project has, therefore, the main goal to systematically investigate and determine the characteristics of renaturation measures that lead to a sustainable increase in biodiversity and ECS. From this, evaluation and prioritisation strategies for increasing the effectiveness of restoration are developed and tested including:

  • What is the role of ecological traits in river ecosystems after a restoration event? Analysis of the potential of implementing ecological traits to assess river restoration outcomes from 134 restoration riverine projects conducted in Switzerland, Germany and Finland. This research has been recently published in the international Journal Science of the Total Environment (link to publication: (Dr. Alessandro Manfrin).
  • What is the role of lateral connectivity in river restoration? Analysis of the role of lateral connectivity in restoration is conducted using fish data collected from the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz" in the district of Soest e.V. (ABU) across the complete gradient of lateral connectivity, since 1993 (Dr. Alessandro Manfrin).
  • Do a series of renaturation projects carried out in a spatial vicinity increase the effectiveness of restoration? Fish taxonomic and ecological trait data collected in proximal waterbodies (e.g. Nidda, Rur and Lippe) are analysed to test the hypothesis that synergistic effects of proximal multiple restorations leads to an overall better restoration success. This, so far, although frequently hypothesized, has never been confirmed by a scientific study (Dr. Alessandro Manfrin).
  • A scenario-based forecasting tool for estimation of renaturation success (SPARE) is developed and applied by combining a species distribution model (SDM) and a dispersion model (Heiko Schmidt).
  • Systematic study of the effects of restoration on the provision of ES and its relationship to biodiversity (Nina Kaiser)

Project members: Dr. Alessandro Manfrin, Nina Kaiser, Heiko Schmidt


Reintroduction of allis shad in the river Rhein (2017-2021)

Funded by: HIT-Umweltstiftung, Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie und Forsten Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessisches Ministerium für Umwelt, Klimaschutz, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz, Landesfischereiverband Baden-Württemberg, Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf, Rheinfischereigenossenschaft NRW, Verband Hessischer Fischer, Bundesamt für Umwelt BAFU (CH), Sportvisserij Nederland (NL)
The allis shad, formerly one of the fish species used by fishermen in the Rhine, had collapsed due to water pollution and overfishing in the first half of the 20th century and finally disappeared completely from the Rhine. Since 2007, attempts have been made to reintroduce allis shad in the Rhine. From 2007 to 2018, the re-introduction program has released almost 11 million of allis shad larvae in the Rhine system. During this program, all larvae were marked in a tetracycline hydrochlorine solution in order to be able to differentiate between stocked fish and fish that come from starting natural reproduction in the Rhine.
The current project is coordinated by the Rheinischer Fischereiverband, the Trier University of Applied Sciences is responsible as a project partner for the establishment and implementation of acoustic monitoring of the spawning activity of allis shad in the Rhine. A similar method is already used in the Dordogne and Garonne and is now being adapted to the conditions in the Rhine in cooperation with the French colleagues. Allis shad spawn at night over fast-flowing, gravelly river sections. They reliably search for very specific habitat conditions and are characterized by a high spawning place fidelity. During spawning, they strike the water surface with their tail fins. This striking, called "bulls", is recorded and then analyzed with special software to determine the number of allis shad spawning. By monitoring the known spawning sites below the transverse structures and counting stations at the fish passes, a relatively precise picture of the spawning stock below the transverse structures is obtained. In combination with the numbers of fish passes, this results in an estimate of the population size for one year.
In order to increase the knowledge of the life history of allis shad in the Rhine and the effectiveness of the re-introduction program, microchemistry analyses are performed using otolith of allis shad adult and juveniles caught (especially in the fish passes) along the Rhine and its tributaries, especially in the fish passes. The purpose of these analyses is to:

  1. Define the timing of the juveniles migration towards the sea (downstream migration strategies). We define this migration by coupling the juveniles daily age and some elements concentrations (Calcium (Ca), Strontium (Sr), Barium (Ba) and Manganese (Mn)) in the otoliths (transverse section) that is related to the concentration recorded in the ambient water for all habitat crossed by the young allis shad.
  2. Identification of the adult origin from another population (not natural reproduction in the Rhine) using elements concentration (Ca, Sr, Ba and Mn) and isotope ratio (87Sr:86Sr) of otolith related to the compound of the bed ground of different spawning sites. These results could be compared to identify a potential exchange of individuals between the different populations in the North Sea and Channel areas.

Project member: Elodie Boussinet


Aktion Blau Plus (from 2018)

Funded by: Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie, Ernährung und Forsten Rheinland-Pfalz

Aktion Blau Plus is a programme of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which has been promoting the restoration of stream sections since 1995. In addition to ecological aspects, the economic and cultural functions of waters are here also considered. We examine the achievement of the objectives of these projects, with regard to both the objectives concerning economic and cultural function and the objective set by the European Water Framework Directive to bring water bodies into good ecological condition. Based on these studies, we will identified factors that are decisive for the success of water restoration projects. From this, we will derive concepts to increase the chances of success of such projects during the planning phase.

Project members: Thomas Meißner  Wolfram Remmers   Chris Seibüchler  Vanessa Schuster


Wasserwissensforum (from 2018)

Funded by: Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie, Ernährung und Forsten Rheinland-Pfalz 
In this project, a concept for a series of events entitled WasserWissenForum is being developed. The aim is to strengthen the networking between researchers on the subject of water in Rhineland-Palatinate with practitioners and administrators of water management. In the WasserWissenForum, current research results from applied research as well as basic research will be presented and discussed. All research areas related to water management will be covered, from biological, ecological, and hydrological topics to questions of chemical water quality, technical facilities, and infrastructural aspects of drinking water and wastewater treatment. The event takes place twice a year in the WasserWissenWerk at the Steinbachtalsperre in Kempfeld, which was newly opened in 2018. The promotion of young scientists is of particular importance in this series of events.
Project member: Thomas Meißner
Projektmitarbeiter: Thomas Meißner

Documentation and Biodiversity management system

From summer semester 2020, a multi-year R&D project for recording biodiversity started at the Environmental Campus of Trier University of Applied Sciences. The aims of the project, which is being led by Prof. Stefan Stoll and Prof. Peter Fischer-Stabel, are the development of IT-based recording and evaluation components of biological site data as well as a comprehensive mapping of the species inventory of selected taxa on the grounds of the Environmental Campus. The latter is to be implemented as part of a crowd sourcing activity by both students and university staff. 
According to Konrad Lorenz's quote "You only love what you know and you only protect what you love", excursions and exercises on species knowledge will be offered during the project, which will turn interested participants into species experts in the respective taxonomic groups.
At a later date, the results of the project should help to answer questions about the effects of climate change on biodiversity, for example, or to develop biotope management plans and maintenance measures at the environmental campus on an environmentally sound basis. In addition, the project aims to promote social awareness of biodiversity in line with the visions of the National Strategy on Biological Diversity (NBS).

Ecological monitoring of a reservoir

The Steinbach Reservoir is located in the Hunsrück close to the village Sensweiler. The main purpose of this 33 ha reservoir is the provision of drinking water. Because of restauration works on the dam the water level must be reduced significantly. In order to capture an ecological reference state for this waterbody, we monitor the vertical profiles of limnolological key variables since January 2018 and describe habitats and biological communities in different zones of the reservoir. The recordings will be continued during and after the restoration activities. Simultaneously we develop management concepts for the reservoir to be implemented after completion of the construction works.



The Environmental Campus Birkenfeld and the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park participate as one of 200 samples sites worldwide within the project “LIFEPLAN – A Planetory Inventory of Life”.

The LIFEPLAN project explores the current state of biodiversity around the world, using several methods to collect the most ambitious global standardized dataset of biodiversity of diverse taxonomic groups to date.
The methods used are:

  • Camera traps for recording mammals
  • Audio recorders for documenting birds and bats
  • Cyclone sampler, which filters fungal spores and pollen from the air
  • Malaise traps for sampling insects

The results will be used to perform accurate predictions about the development of diversity under future scenarios.
This ambitious project is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Research and Innovation Program 2020.
For more information, visit


LTER-D Monitoring (German network for long-term ecological research)

The German network for long-term ecological research (LTER-D) is a platform for communication, documentation and collaboration of scientists in site-based long-term, system-oriented and interdisciplinary environmental observation in Germany.
The German network is a node in a globally distributed network and  infrastructure of long-term research sites that adheres to the following principles:

  • Long-term: Continuous collection and use of long-term data on ecosystems with a time horizon of decades to centuries
  • In-situ: Data generation at different spatial scales at individual in-natura sites
  • Process orientation: Identification and quantification of interactions of ecosystem processes affected by internal and external drivers
  • Systems approach: Investigation of ecosystems, environmental systems and socio-ecological systems in the long-term

Our resreach group runs a long-term ecosystem monitoring program in the river and floodplain habitats of the National Park Hunsrück-Hochwald. Please find further information in the section National Park Research.
Stefan Stoll currently serves as treasurer on the National board of LTER-D

Visit the homepage of LTER-D:
Visit the homepage of LTER-Europe:


National park Hunsrück-Hochwald

Aquatic Monitoring

The aquatic monitoring covers the measurement of microclimatic, hydrological, physico-chemical and biological variables in the catchment of river Traunbach. These measurements are carried out with permanently applied data loggers for the measurement of abiotic environmental variables, supplemented by sampling of the species communities (fish, aquatic macro invertebrates, flying insects) in a 14-day to annual rhythm, depending on species group. Project-based, additional environmental data are collected.


Monitoring of mammals and birds with camera traps

In the National Park, over 50 self-timer photo traps have been distributed to capture the larger mammal and bird species found in the National Park. In this project, we screen the pictures of the photo-traps for the National Park, determine the photographed species of animals and record the data in a database. From this data, we create spatial activity profiles of the occurring species and analyze day- and seasonal activity patterns. In addition, we investigate how double captures of the same individual on series of images can be avoided.
A significant proportion of the images taken by the photogenic traps are also false triggering (e.g. there is no animal in the picture). Detecting and sorting out the false alarms causes effort. We analyze the conditions under which false triggering occurs in order to minimize it.


Ecology Lab


The Ecology Laboratory offers a wide range of equipment and infrastructures for processing environmental samples and for ecological experimental work:

  • Calibration and data processing of various multiparameter environmental probes
  • Processing of substrate samples (grain size distribution, soil chemistry)
  • Equipment for organismic sampling of waters (electrofishing, macrozoobenthos multi-habitat sampling)
  • Processing of biological samples (fractionation, taxonomy, storage)
  • Aquaria for ecological experiments
  • Optical laboratory with high quality binoculars
  • Processing of acoustic monitoring data
  • Environmental databases

Past projects

European weather loach (Misgurnus fossilis) in the Northern Upper Rhine region: Sustainable population management and detection of eDNA

Funded by: SGD Süd, Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt, Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe, Hessisches Landesamt für Naturschutz, Umwelt und Geologie.
In Germany, the European weather loach is considered as Red List category 2 (highly endangered). Furthermore, this species is listed in Annex II of the Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive and thus belongs to the ' species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest for which special protection areas must be designated'. The Upper Rhine region still has a number of occurrences of European weather loach and there are potentially suitable aquatic habitats existing. Consequently, the Upper Rhine area has a special significance for the preservation of the European weather loach.To restore a good state of preservation of the species, annual restocking is carried out. For this purpose, European weather loach larvae are raised in the Ecosystem Research System Eußerthal of the University of Koblenz-Landau in spring. After a few weeks the larvae are moved to suitable regional waters.
The project also aims to control the effectiveness of restocking. Detection of European weather loach is often ineffective by using traditional methods (scavenging and electrofishing), especially in heavily vegetated and muddy waters in which the animals preferentially reside. But those waters with such structures are preferred habitats of the European weather loach.
In this project, an alternative, novel detection method for aquatic organisms for the European weather loach will be tested. This method is based on a molecular genetic detection from water samples. Free DNA and cell residues (environmental DNA or DNA) occur in the water, which are released by the animals through excreta and permanently via the body surface, in particular the gills. The DNA is species-specific. Thus, an occurrence of European weather loach can be detected without consuming fishing methods. The project compares the effectiveness of classical trapping methods and the new eDNA method over the course of the year and under different environmental conditions.
The resulting data will be used to get a better insight into the so far not well-known seasonal and daily migration patterns of European weather loach. In addition, mesocosm experiments will be carried out to investigate the impact of environmental variability on the different age stages of European weather loach.

Project region: RP Darmstadt, RP Karlsruhe, SGD Süd
Project partner: Institut für Umweltwissenschaften der Universität Koblenz-Landau, Umwelt-Campus Birkenfeld der Hochschule Trier, INGA – Institut für Gewässer- und Auenökologie
Project members: Lena Kusanke


Our Common Future program of Robert-Bosch-Foundation (2018-2020)

(Kopie 12)

Biodiversity change and climate protection in development areas of the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park
The project is part of the funding line "Our Common Future" of the Robert Bosch Foundation. Here, pupils of the upper secondary level of the Cusanus-Gymnasium St. Wendel gain their first scientific experience. The pupils explore how species communities change under the influence of habitat restoration of the hillside moors in the national park. These species communities are captured using current methods, for instance programming smaprtphone apps, to demonstrate the close link between biodiversity research and computer science. In the course of the current climate change debate, carbon balances are prepared for different habitat types. The young people record their results in podcasts, explanatory videos and broadcasts of the National Park radio. The project runs for two school years and ends in July 2020.

Project members: Wolfram Remmers   Chris Seibüchler


Climate change in the National Park (2018-2019)

It is now common knowledge that the global climate is getting warmer. But what does it look like in our National Park? In this project, the Competence Centre for Climate Change Impacts in Rhineland-Palatinate has provided us with temperature and precipitation data from Rhineland-Palatinate measured at weather stations since 1880. From these data we have selected the measuring stations, which are located in the area of today's National Park Hunsrück-Hochwald and an adjacent buffer region of 5km, and from this we have produced clear graphs of the development of temperature (mean annual temperature, number of hot days, frost days,...) and precipitation (annual sum, precipitation in summer, precipitation in winter,...) over the this period. In addition to these measured data from the past, we have compiled and visualized the regional forecasts for future temperature development in the National Park region for various model scenarios of the Intergovernmental Platform on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a second part of the project, we have reviewed scientific studies that investigate how animal and plant species occurring in the national park will react to climate change. At the end of the project we presented our results to the national park rangers and handed them all material for use on tours in the national park.

Bionics excursion in the National Park (2017)

Why do beaver teeth always stay sharp? What makes the leaves of certain plant species slippery for pest insects? How does a tree stabilize its crown? In the course of evolution, animals and plants have developed highly efficient adaptations to a variety of problems. Scientists from the field of bionics are trying to solve technical problems by copying processes and functions from the animal and plant kingdoms. In this project, we have compiled examples of bionic products whose biological models can be seen in the National Park and have provided the bionic products as illustrative material. At the end of the project, we worked out a hiking route through the national park, on which the natural models and the technical models developed from them can be explained at various stations.

All materials were handed over to the ranger team of the National Park. They can now use these items on their own tours or offer the complete bionics tour.

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