DE-TAF is led by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN) and the five DE-TAF institutions MfN, BGBM, SGN, SMNS and ZFMK are principal institutions of their kind in Germany. The extensive plant collections of the BGBM, among the most important in the world, are perfectly complemented by the vast zoological, palaeontological and mineralogical collections of the MfN. All five institutions are involved in a broad spectrum of research spanning the breadth of biosystematics and geoscience. The five institutions cover a broad range of Germany’s dispersed natural history collections; SGN alone is based at seven institutes and research centres located in seven of Germany’s federal states. DE TAF is one of the world’s key sites for biosystematic data. BGBM has a total of 3.5 million specimens (100,000 primary types), MfN has 30 million specimens (250,000 primary types), SGN 38.5 million specimens (56,000 primary types), and SMNS 11 million specimens (9,600 primary types), representing more than 500 years of collecting effort.
Representing more than 500 years of collecting effort, DE-TAF has several unique strengths including, for example, unrivalled collections of plant, animal and fossil material from central Europe, plant remains from ancient Egypt and fish, insect, fossil plant and meteorite collections that are not found in museums anywhere else in Europe.
The core units of the MfN Berlin are its four Science Programmes "Evolution and Geoprocesses", "Collection Development and Biodiversity Discovery", "Digital World and Information Science", and "Museum and Society".
BGBM is the centre of excellence for phytotaxonomical research in Germany and the central European region. BGBM staff are pursuing a broad spectrum of studies, under the umbrella of biodiversity research, focused both on certain taxonomic groups (Asterales, Caryophyllales and Bacillariophyta) and on specific regions of the world (Mediterranean, Cuba). Major collaborative research and development projects led by BGBM focus on the assessment and conservation of plant diversity in the Caucasus; online provision of images and other multimedia objects from NH collections across Europe.
The Senckenberg research programme covers four main research fields: Biodiversity & Systematics, Biodiversity & Ecosystems, Biodiversity & Climate and Biodiversity and Earth Systems dynamics. In addition Senckenberg is running a large Infrastructure programme covering the collections, a broad variety of highly equipped laboratories and long-term research stations and a Science & Society programme.
Biodiversity and phylogeny studies are integrative parts of the research programs of the SMNS. SMNS staff and collaborators are important members of the leading German research group mapping biodiversity, both across the planet and back through time, searching for factors – biological, climatic, geographical or geological – that control and influence biotic diversity and loss. The research framework at SMNS is focused on reconstructing fossil ecosystems, phylogeny of arthropods, phylogeny and evolution of reptiles and amphibians, and integrative taxonomy and assessment of biodiversity.
BGBM is the major depository for botanical materials (both living and preserved) and literature in Germany, and one of the major European botanical centres incl. the new science infrastructure of biodiversity informatics.
The MfN collections form a vital substrate for research, especially for projects focused on the biodiversity and geological history of central Europe. The collections are extensively curated and documented, specimens can be easily located and examined and an increasing part of the MfN collections is digitised, including 180,000 databased lots, including 25,000 primary types.
With about 38.5 million collection units, Senckenberg houses the largest natural history collection in Germany, ranking among the top five worldwide. The oldest Senckenberg collections date back to the 16th century. These collections include minerals and other geological items, meteorites, and fossils as documents of paleo-biodiversity, as well as extensive collections of animals, plants, and fungi.
The oldest parts of the SMNS collection date back to the 16th century, and were originally incorporated in the private ”Cabinet of Arts and Natural Curiosities” of the Dukes of Württemberg, which later gave rise to the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart. Today, the biological and palaeontological collections still have a strong regional focus as well as a worldwide dimension.
ZMFK is a leading institution for species-related biodiversity research. As the Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity, the core facilities of ZFMK support the research mission: ‘Discovering and explaining biodiversity’, with focus on animal species.
Maraike Willsch, Ulla Lächele