Thomas Göttert

This presentation approaches the overall theme of the lecture series by comparatively considering ecosystems in central Europe and Sub-Sahara Africa. Although these regions and systems appear to have little in common at first glance, there are several striking natural and cultural parallels (e.g. Afro-Palearctic bird migration system, biogeographical relations between continents, faunal similarities during the late Pleistocene, domestication history of European and African cattle). Particular attention will be paid to the dramatic global reduction in megafaunal species diversity following human colonization and the resulting consequences for landscape structure. Africa, however, is the only continent that still harbors the majority of its Pleistocene megafaunal species diversity. The comparative approach to distinct geographical regions / ecological conditions at different levels leads to the conclusion that (the remaining) relatively undisturbed savanna ecosystems in southern Africa hold an immense potential for a better understanding of the interrelationships within highly transformed ecosystems in Europe (and potentially elsewhere). This implies a critical examination of concepts such as “wilderness” or “rewilding” and stimulates a rethinking of nature conservation strategies and conservation goals. The properties of ecosystems (resilience, stability) are closely linked to the organismic response ranges of the individuals from which they are composed. A precise distinction between region-specific ecosystem-properties and universally applicable ecological laws is essential because the human influence on biodiversity increases dramatically on all spatial scales.


After studying biology at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, T. Göttert conducted research on the post-release spatial ecology of reintroduced African rhinos in Namibia and received a PhD from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo). Since more than 12 years, he is affiliated with the Systematic Zoology Division at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Prof. Dr. Ulrich Zeller), where he is involved in the establishment / development of an academic network with emphasis on Sub-Sahara Africa. His research focus is on interrelations between biodiversity and land use, e.g. organismic response mechanisms to anthropogenic disturbances, human wildlife conflicts, ecological functions of large herbivores, and transboundary protected areas. Administrative focus is on international university partnerships, Joint and Dual Degree MSc programs, and internationally supervised PhD projects. He has many years of international teaching experience and is regularly working in southern Africa, particularly in Namibia and Mozambique.