Senckenberg Researcher Peter Haase Recognized as “International Champion”

Frontiers Planet Prize and research grant in the amount of one million Swiss francs awarded for his work on rivers and streams

Senckenberg aquatic ecologist Prof. Dr. Peter Haase was honored today as an “International Champion” with the Frontiers Planet Prize from the Frontiers Research Foundation. At one million Swiss francs – the equivalent of around 1.05 million euros – it is one of the world’s most highly endowed awards for pioneering nature research. The prize recognizes a study by Haase and his team on the biodiversity of streams and rivers throughout Europe. The researchers’ analyses revealed that, on average, the diversity of species and ecological functions in rivers has increased over the last 50 years, but that this positive trend has come to a halt since 2010. Based on these results, measures for the recovery of freshwater biodiversity can be identified to improve the important functions of river ecosystems.

Intensive land use due to development and agriculture, river regulation, invasive animal and plant species, global climate change, and pollution: humans have a tremendous impact on river ecosystems. “In order to track the development of biotic communities in rivers, an international team headed by me has compiled and evaluated time series on the biodiversity of streams and rivers throughout Europe,” explains Prof. Dr. Peter Haase from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt and the University of Duisburg-Essen, and he continues, “Our analyses revealed that, on average, the diversity of species and ecological functions in rivers has increased over the last 50 years, beginning at a very low level as a result of the intense pressures in the past. However, this positive trend has leveled off since 2010.” Studying invertebrates such as bivalves, crayfish, or mayflies from 1,816 sites on rivers in 22 European countries, the team was able to demonstrate improvements through measures such as the construction of wastewater treatment plants. At the same time, new and ongoing pressures on our streams and rivers have halted the positive trend since 2010. The scientists outline additional measures to advance the recovery of freshwater biodiversity and improve the important functions of river ecosystems.

“This excellent and societally highly relevant scientific work has now been honored by Peter Haase’s recognition as an ‘International Champion’ with the awarding of the Frontiers Planet Prize. Hundreds of researchers, 20 national science academies, and 475 leading universities and research institutes have applied for this prize to date – we are therefore incredibly proud of Peter Haase’s success,” says a delighted Prof. Dr. Klement Tockner, Director General of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, and he continues, “Our streams and rivers are among the most valuable habitats – for nature and for humans. At the same time, they are under greater threat than ever before. That is why the EU Nature Restoration Law is essential in order to pass on to future generations a natural environment worth living in. The work of Senckenberg researchers contributes important building blocks of knowledge in this regard.”

The Frontiers Research Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Switzerland that supports programs that advance scientific solutions for a healthy life on a healthy planet. On Earth Day 2022, the Foundation established the Frontiers Planet Prize, which recognizes scientific breakthroughs that contribute to the stabilization of the planet’s ecosystem. The aim is to stimulate international competition and promote scientific collaboration to accelerate solution-oriented research for the benefit of ecosystems around the world and to respond to the global crisis with sustainable solutions. The prize will be awarded for the second time in 2024. A jury of 100 experts, led by Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, initially selects one “National Champion” each from among the nominees. Three “International Champions” will then be chosen from their ranks and honored in a ceremony. The institutions of the three recognized individuals will receive one million Swiss francs each to support the research of the “International Champions” and publicize their findings on a global scale.


Peter Haase

Senckenberger Peter Haase is an “International Champion.” Photo: Frontiers Planet Prize