Background, Vision and Challenges

Lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, floodplains and wetlands - waters have many ecological potentials in the city. Although waters in urban areas are rarely close to nature, but are usually significantly altered or completely artificial, they remain waters: they are habitats and distribution corridors of a typical fauna and flora, they are part of the river system, part of the urban water cycle and - especially in Berlin - essential for the drinking water supply and cooling of the city. They are also preferred spaces for leisure and recreation, because water attracts us. In short: Without waters, the city is left high and dry.

Historical change and new demands, unused infrastructure and current reqirements - especially in cities - are clashing and shaping their waters and shores and they have a massive impact on their ecological functions. In addition urban waters suffer from stress due to climate change, over-fertilization, invasive species and much more. Often the possibilities for real ecological improvements and a social achievements are underestimated.

The focus of the Research Network of Urban Waters is the investigation of ecological potentials of waters and wetlands . How can we understand the capacity of the performance of urban waters and how can we support it? What is the character and beauty of waters in the city? How can swimming in lakes and rivers be reconciled? How do recreational activities get along with ecological goals for urban waters? What role do vivid waters play in health care and how do they support the quality of life in the city?

It is important to look at the scope of ecological potential in urban space and to develop a conceptual framework. In doing so, we focus on people and their access to water, their experience of water in the city and biodiversity.

Aim of the interdisciplinary research network

In Berlin, a nationally and internationally visible network for interdisciplinary research on biodiversity and the management of urban waters we want to create. Existing research potentials can be brought together and coordinated in such a way as to exploit synergies and, in addition, to jointly develop promising applications for project funding. The international competitiveness in science and application should be strengthened and the interdisciplinary research network on the ecological potential of urban waters should be consolidated. Innovative concepts for the management of urban waters and their aquatic communities – as novel ecosystems due to human activity – are to be developed.

We want to stimulate research on ecological functions and ecosystem services of urban waters and their impact on the catchment area, thus creating synergies between business-related projects - e.g. in the area of ​​mixed water management and water revitalization in Berlin.

Waters should be fun!

Everyone wants a city where the numerous waterbodies are full of live and dainty clean, swimming is a lot of fun and we can enjoy the drinking water.

In order to achieve this goal, a lot of research is already being done and a lot of money has been invested. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go. Here you will find the most important research challenges for vivid waters in urban areas.

Our research questions

  • Which concepts and visions exist for ecological goals and mission statements?
  • Where are examples of successful restoration projects in urban waters?
  • Which principles and examples are available for adaptive management strategies and implementations?
  • What do we know about restoration of waterbodies and banks?
  • Which socio-ecological studies dealing with waterbodies and restoration projects are available?
  • What know-how and research is urgently lacking?
  • How can we create more synergies between stakeholders?

Open research questions:

  • When and where there is a demand for ecosystem functions and services?
  • Where and for which activities people come to the water?
  • How can people actively participate in the exploration of Berlin's waterbodies?
  • Which waterbodies are used no longer or just a little?
  • Where can we create new access to the water and unblock the shores?
  • Where can we develop new baths and/or revitalize old ones?
  • Where and how can we better experience waterbodies and their wildlife in berlin?
  • Where are infrastructures missing e.g. for paddlers, nature watchers or fishermen?
  • Which revitalization or management actions have proven to be efficient and effective for urban waterbodies?
  • Which water routes are not yet traversable for fish?
  • Where is space for floating islands, new reed areas and other modular structures to bring more nature to Berlin?

Recent quotes

The interdisciplinary research network is funded by the Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research.

The coalition will ensure that there is a public access to fresh air, less noise, clean water, open spaces, parks, rivers and lakes in the growing city… The shores of Berlin's waterbodies should be open to the public in principle…The water and shore areas should be designed as close to nature as possible…The coalition will tackle Berlin's key water challenges and implement the Water Framework Directive as soon as possible for all rivers. We will enable swimming in the river Spree.
Coalition agreement 2016„Langsam entsteht ein Bewusstsein dafür, dass Metropolen eine besondere Verantwortung beim ökologischen Stadtumbau haben. Berlin hätte das Potenzial ein ökologischer Aktivposten, ja sogar ein Vorreiter zu sein."

„Slowly the awareness arises that metropolises have a special responsibility in ecological urban redevelopment. Berlin has the potential to be an ecological asset, even a pioneer.“

„The citizens of Berlin want to experience and enjoy their river! They demand more public accessibility of the river and its shores. Also the water-oriented recreation should be possible in the city center.“
(Berliner Stadtgespräch)