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What we are

ConFoBi is a Research Training Groups (RTG) (Graduiertenkolleg – GRK) based at the Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg and funded by the German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) which means that it is a third-party funded project with two aims: (1) providing a qualification concept for young researchers in obtaining their PhD and preparing them for their scientific careers, and (2) conducting excellent research. The novelty of the ConFoBi is the combination of the multi-scale, ecological study of forest biodiversity along with social and economic studies of biodiversity conservation. This integrated approach is designed to establish a lively exchange of knowledge and expertise between scientific researchers and forestry or conservation practitioners.


ConFoBi focuses on the effectiveness of structural retention measures, namely habitat trees and dead wood, by using the Black Forest as a system model for multi-use forests in Central Europe. It identifies opportunities for cooperation between forestry and conservation sectors to effectively integrate conservation with conventional forest management.

The research program comprises of 5 modules:

    1. Multi-scale assessment of structures: providing tools to assess structures ranging from individual trees to landscapes.
    2. Structures and forest biodiversity: focuses on biodiversity along gradients of forest structure and connectivity to assess linkages between forest structure and biodiversity.
    3. Human dimensions of forest biodiversity: using social science and economic assessments to analyse opportunity costs and stakeholder perceptions.
    4. Integration and translation: learning to facilitate cooperation and discussion between science and society, specifically between conservation scientists and forest managers. Module D will use results from modules A-C to manage relationships between researchers and partners from the forest and conservation sectors.
    5. Coordination: is responsible for the coordination of the ConFoBi programme and modules A-D.

Research modules A-C study two main questions developed using the ConFoBi framework:

  • How does landscape structure effect restoration, and long term conservation, of biodiversity in multi-use forests?
  • What are the socio-economic opportunities and obstacles for integrating conservation measures into forest management?

Study Area

The research design of ConFoBi comprises 135 one hectare plots along two gradients, based on GIS data:

  • Fragmentation (measured as the percentage of forest in the surrounding 25km²) and
  • Structural richness (measured as amount of standing dead wood from aerial images).

The gradients are divided into 3 classes each, leading to a total of 9 unique classes, each holding 15 plots. All plots are located in the southern parts of the Black Forest (see map below) and had to full-fill a few other criteria (e.g. excluding special areas for capercaillie or red deer). Detailed assessments of the real structure of our study plots are currently fully under way.

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Qualification concept

ConFoBi offers interdisciplinary training, supervision and coaching by experienced researchers in order to:

  1. Advance doctoral researches’ professional independence
  2. Develop inter- and trans-disciplinary competence
  3. Qualify students for leadership roles in and outside academia
  4. Provide an international network of peers and partners.