Benthic Organisms and Habitats

The animals and plants that live on and in the ground layer of water bodies exert a great influence on their environment, serve as a food source for fish and birds, or even form their own habitats, such as reefs. Therefore benthic organisms can act as an important indicator for assessing the ecological status of a water body.
The main objectives are the ecological and nature conservation assessment of anthropogenic influences by offshore wind turbines, fairway deepenings, cable routes, pipelines, Sediment extractions and dredged material dumping which can have an effect on marine communities, following the requirements of Natura 2000, (WRRL) and (MSRL). The species communities and their habitats are investigated by IfAÖ using underwater videos, research divers and mainly ship-based sampling.

Key services

  • Investigations of marine and limnetic organisms and habitats
  • Inventory, mapping and assessment of macrozoobenthos, macrophytobenthos and benthic biotopes
  • Description of seasonal and annual variability of benthic animal and plant communities in relation to environmental influences
  • Analysis of surrounding physical parameters such as hydrology and sediments in the North and Baltic Seas
  • Determination of water quality in lotic water systems, standard surveys for site type index, ASTERICS-/PERLODES-method, saprobial index according to DIN 38410, multi-habitat sampling
  • Determination of water quality in lakes according to the AESHNA method
  • Preparation of ecological and nature conservation assesments and research reports

Benthos and sediment laboratories

The basis for the monitoring is the examination of extensive sample material by the different institute-owned laboratories.


The sorting and inventory of all relevant animal and plant species from the collected sample material takes place here in order to determine individual numbers and biomass. Freely movable stereomicroscopes at eight workstations allow effective processing of even large sample volumes.


Experienced taxonomists carry out the analysis and precise identification of species using powerful stereo and transmitted light microscopes. Constantly updated identification literature, participation in workshops at home and abroad but also the international contact with taxonomic specialists ensures the quality of thesample analysis. In a database-managed voucher collection »  more than 12,000 specimens are stored as reference material and reserve samples.



The composition of the ground layer of water bodies is a crucial factor for all benthic organisms. Therefore, a small subsample is taken from each benthic sample to perform grain size analysis according to DIN 18123 and to determine the loss on ignition according to DIN EN 12879. For processing, the laboratory is equipped with appropriate sieving machines, drying ovens, annealing ovens and analytical balances.


Franziska Kazmierczak
Head of Department

T +49 38204 618-52