The Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change

is a research museum of the Leibniz Association




Quick facts

Project title: 
BIGFOOT - BIodiversity decline's Genomic FOOTprint
ZFMK Project lead: 


We face a global biodiversity crisis of unprecedented magnitude with devastating consequences for ecosystem viability. Besides anthropogenic habitat deterioration, fragmentation and climatic change, genomics can determine a population's fate but also can be used to assess its health. Yet, genomic patterns of species decline have only been shown for a few emblematic mammal species. Populations of some declining species are mostly assessed by classical census monitoring (e.g. Red Lists, EU habitat directive), rarely accompanied by genetics, and in insects limited to some families or done via bulk sampling lacking quantitative resolution. Conservation genomics—with a view beyond the limitations of genetic diversity—can help to assess the health of species and populations on a global scale. However, it’s unclear what the genomic effects of decline and

isolation are in much of the non-mammal part of biodiversity, in particular in invertebrates with their vast life history diversity.
We will use a taxonomically broad set of species with strongly declining and isolated populations in Germany. We will i) generate reference genomes and apply population genomics to contemporary and historical samples ii) compare the genomic footprints of population collapse and isolation to understand species-specific impacts iii) integrate ecological modeling to predict resilience to future niche changes in light of the genetic constitution and iv) deduce predictions for large parts of biodiversity. Our evidence-based strategy for biodiversity assessment includes historic populations and provides crucial information for biodiversity preservation and rescue. Our experts network connects monitoring, genome sequencing, statistical population genomic analyses and ecological niche modeling with policy-makers and stakeholders in biodiversity conservation. BIGFOOT will provide specific and general genomic assessment criteria for populations in decline applicable to biodiversity on a global scale.


Contact person

Head of Section
+49 228 9122-365
+49 228 9122-212
A.Boehne [at]