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Research projects focused on sustainability

Toward a more sustainable economy and society

Sustainability-related research is being conducted at all of the University’s ten Faculties. It aims to help create a more sustainable economy and society.

Selected projects

Below are just some of the projects that are being undertaken by our researchers.

To help municipalities protect biodiversity by reducing their use of biocides - this is the goal of a research project undertaken at the Faculty of Business Management and Economics of the JMU. The project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Biocides: both useful and harmful

Disinfectants protect us from viruses and bacteria. But what exactly do they contain? Disinfectants contain substances that inactivate or kill harmful organisms. They belong to a class of products called biocides, a term that has a positive ring to it: ‘Bio...’ – that must be something good, right? Well, not necessarily. Biocides can be harmful to humans, too: They may cause eye and skin irritation or even cancer, and their use can lead to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Research project at the Chair of Business Management and Industrial Management

The project, which is being undertaken by the team of Prof. Ronald Bogaschewsky at the Chair of Business Management and Industrial Management, investigates how municipalities purchase and use biocides. It is being coordinated by Felix Blank. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety is supplying the project with around €600,000 in funding over two years.

‘We investigate how public institutions and municipal enterprises purchase and use biocides,’ says Felix Blank. The team will then use its findings to develop recommendations to help municipalities reduce their use of biocides without sacrificing efficiency.

Municipalities to play a pioneering role

The public sector awards contracts worth 250 to 400 billion euros each year, which is why municipalities are a role model to others. They should be playing a pioneering role in using eco‑friendly products and practices. Price is a major factor that deters municipalities from purchasing sustainable products and services.
But it is important to keep the following in mind: While green products may be more expensive to buy, their total life cycle costs are often lower than those of their standard counterparts. This is why eco-friendly options are often the better choice, both for the environment and for our wallet.

The researchers on the project team want to encourage and help municipalities to make a contribution to the protection of our environment. ‘We want to find out and analyse what criteria municipalities use to make their purchasing decisions. Our goal is for municipalities to switch to biocide-free products and green biocides and for others to follow their example,’ says Felix Blank.

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Ecosystems: LandKlif

Climatic conditions and land use have a significant impact on habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem services. LandKlif is a joint project that investigates the biodiversity and multi-functionality of semi‑natural, agricultural and urban landscapes in different climate zones of Bavaria. Its goal is to develop strategies for mitigating the impact of climate change and adapting to changing climate conditions.

The richness of species in Lower Franconia

In Lower Franconia, too, indigenous plants and animals are being threatened by climate change. Wild bees are particularly in danger. Biologists, geographers and computer scientists investigate the impacts climate change has on species richness. Their work helps us to better predict the potential effects of global warming.

Climate and urban form: the ‘Klimaerlebnis Würzburg’ project

How do trees and the urban form of our city affect the climate in Würzburg? This is the question the ‘Klimaerlebnis Würzburg’ (Würzburg climate experience) project is trying to answer. Located all across the city, seven monitoring stations deliver the necessary data. They measure, for example, how the urban climate changes and how the city trees cope with the changing conditions.

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In 1990, Würzburg biologist Karl Eduard Linsenmair founded a research station in the Comoé National Park (Côte d'Ivoire) with funds from the Volkswagen Foundation.
An UNESCO World Heritage site, the park comprises a multitude of habitats containing a remarkable diversity of life.

International research teams

The research station offers unique research and training opportunities for scientists and students. So far, it has hosted more than 200 researchers from all over the world, whose work has resulted in more than 250 publications and over 80 final or doctoral theses.

The goal: to use the savannah ecosystems in a sustainable manner

The research station has dedicated itself to fostering the understanding and conservation of the habitats within the national park and promoting the sustainable use of the savannah ecosystems – especially in view of climate change and the increasing population pressure.

World Heritage no longer in danger

But this is not the only reason why the research station is good for the park: The detection of animal species that had been believed to have gone extinct in the park was one of the major factors that led to the Comoé National Park being taken off the UNESCO’S List of World Heritage in Danger.

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Humans are making a significant contribution to global warming by emitting too much CO2. Chemist Anke Krüger investigates how diamond materials can be used to convert CO2 to valuable raw materials, e.g. fuels for cars. Another project of hers deals with the development of novel sodium batteries that do not use hazardous elements such as lithium or cobalt.

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Agriculture: WASCAL-DE Coop

How can we measure and minimise the impact of climate change on agriculture in West Africa? Teams of African and German researchers spent five years investigating this issue in the context of the large-scale WASCAL project.

The follow-on project - ‘WASCAL-DE Coop’ - has three main objectives: to work on new research questions, to further enhance the research infrastructure created in West Africa in the context of the WASCAL project and to promote the training of African scientists.

Climate change: Big-Data@Geo

Will the vineyards in Lower Franconia become unsuitable for grapes that are not extremely drought tolerant? Will we need to install irrigation systems? Will there be a point when it will be impossible to grow certain crops in certain places?

These are the questions that the project ‘Big-Data@Geo - advanced environmental technologies using AI in the web’ is trying to answer. The project team, which includes computer scientists, geographers and climatologists, is working on a model that will help us predict how the different regions of Lower Franconia will be affected by climate change.


While before-and-after photos of melting glaciers are powerful reminders of global warming, the thawing of the permafrost in the Alps is not immediately visible and usually doesn’t get our attention until it causes dangerous landslides or rockfalls.

Geographer Christof Kneisel is developing new methods for examining the distribution and characteristics of Alpine permafrost and the seasonal changes to which it is subject. His work will also help us predict climate-induced changes.

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For many years now, the University of Würzburg has been conducting internationally recognised research about Africa and with partners from Africa.
Our Africa-related research covers a wide range of disciplines: from biology and chemistry to geography to literature, cultural studies and the social sciences. Here are some of the issues our researchers have investigated:

  • Biology and chemistry: Teams of researchers have investigated the biology of the parasite behind the African sleeping sickness, the impact of climate change on Mount Kilimanjaro and how tropical diseases and cancer can be treated with natural products.
  • Business management, economics and geography: Issues investigated include aid deliveries to sub-Saharan Africa, migration and refugees as well as using waste as a resource in Africa.
  • Political and cultural studies: International relations, the aftereffects of slave trade, colonialism.

Forum Africa Centre

The Forum Africa Centre at the University of Würzburg is an association of researchers that have been working closely with institutions in Africa for many years. Its goal is to bring researchers together, foster research collaborations, raise awareness of the research among the public and give people an insight into the cultures of Africa and the research going on there.

Young Africa Centre

The Young Africa Centre working group creates a platform for students and doctoral researchers with an interest in Africa.

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How can cities become greener and more sustainable? Prof. Michael Pflüger has been part of the 'Green Cities' project, which dealt with exactly that question.

The issue is pressing because urbanisation is advancing rapidly and it is having severe impacts on the environment. What makes a city sustainable? Should we further increase the density of our cities and build more skyscrapers? Will some cities thrive to become 'green' service cities while others will end up as industrial 'pollution havens'?

These are just some of the questions that the 'Green Cities' project has tried to answer.

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