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BIODIVERSITY & BIONICS

The Biodiversity & Bionics research group of Prof. em. Wilhelm Barthlott and colleagues focuses on Global Biodiversity distribution patterns in a changing world, Scanning Electron Microscopy of Plant Surfaces, and physical solid-liquid-gas interactions for bionic applications. General information and publications can be found at www.lotus-salvinia.de. A collection of more than 7.000 high resolution images of plants are also available.

Biodiversity in Change and Global Biodiversity patterns


The Biodiversity patterns project started in 1990 with the analysis of tropical Inselberg-Vegetation within the DFG-Program “Mechanismen der AufrechterhaltungTropischer Diversität” (Retention Mechanisms for Tropical Diversity). We have continued to map and analyze plant diversity patterns at the global scale. A first world map of Biodiversity was published in 1996 and has been continuously updated. Since then, the project has diversified.World maps for all major groups of land plants are now available. From 2001 to 2010 we worked within the large BIOTA-Africa network on regional to continental scale and conducted macroecological and conservation related analyses of African plant diversity in a changing environment. In recent years, different papers focused on the potential threat of climate and land-use changes on large scale plant diversity, large scale patterns of plant and animal endemism richness, plant diversity of oceanic islands, or the associations between plant and animal diversity.

The studies were embedded 2001–2014 in the long-term research project Biodiversity in Change of the Academy of Science and Literature Mainz. Recent works concentrate on the Biodiversity patterns of oceanic islands, of Cacti and the context of Biodiversity, Climate Change and cultural diversity like language diversity. Bionics as a particular value to maintain biodiversity is emphasized (Barthlott, Erdelen, Rafiqpoor2014)

SEM, Taxonomy & Systematics


Scanning electron microscopy of leaf surfaces has been the focal point of research for decades; we analyzedsome 20,000 different species and a stock of some 150,000 SEM micrographs from our archivesas the basis of the work. A complete list of publications is available. Many of the publications with thousands of pages are provided as a full pdf document (e.g. Barthlott&Wollenweber1981), a monograph of the SEM of Orchid Seeds was published recently (Barthlott, Große-Veldmann, Korotkova 2014). Particular studies were carried out to investigate the ultraviolet reflection of flowers (Burr, Rosen, Barthlott 1995; Burr &Barthlott 1993; Biedinger&Barthlott 1993) or form and function in the Giant Arum Amorphophyllus titanium (Barthlott&Lobin1998). Systematics of South American epiphytic cacti (Rhipsalideeae), based on the large living collection formerlyin Bonn (now BGBM Berlin), is another field of interest (Barthlott& Taylor 1996; Korotkova et al. 2011; Korotkova et al. 2010).

Superhydrophobic surfaces and bionic applications: Lotus-Effect and Salvinia-Effect


Since the 1970s the intriguing functions of hierarchical surfaces were a research focal point (Barthlott&Ehler 1977). We concentrated on the interactions between solid surfaces, water, and air and investigated the self-cleaning properties (Lotus-Effect) of superhydrophobic surfaces (Barthlott&Ehler 1977, Barthlott 1992, Barthlott&Neinhuis 1997). Recently, we have investigated the interaction of superhydrophobic surfaces with different agrochemicals in collaboration with Prof. Georg Noga (Institut für Nutzpflanzenwissenschaften und Ressourcenschutz (INRES) Gartenbauwissenschaft). Since 2002 the second focal point of our work is the ability of some superhydrophobic surfaces to maintain permanent air layers under water, which resulted in the discovery of the so-called Salvinia-Effect (Koch et al. 2009, Barthlott et al. 2010). Transferring this property to bionic surfaces, these surfaces could reduce the drag e.g. on ship hulls or in pipelines. Furthermore, they could reduce the fouling on submerged surfaces. The current work in this field is funded within the BMBF-Projekt “ARES-Air Retaining Surfaces” in cooperation with researchers at the University of Rostock and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Not only the drag reduction and anti-fouling properties of air retaining surface are of interest;in the air retaining surfaces of some aquatic insects (e.g. the backswimmer Notonecta) we  discovered other unexpected functions which we analyze in cooperation with the working group of Prof. Horst Bleckmann (Zoologisches Institut).
In addition to all the extremely water repellent (superhydrophobic) biological surfaces mentioned above, in one project we concentrate on hydrophilic plant surfaces as models for biomimetic fog collectors for arid regions (Azad et al. 2014). These bionic studies were funded within the DFG Graduate School GRK1572 “Bionics – Interactions across Boundaries to the Environment” from 2012 to 2015.

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