The city of Leipzig

Leipzig Skyline
Leipziger Skyline © Michael Bader, Leipzig Travel

With 584,775 inhabitants, Leipzig is the largest city in the Free State of Saxony and Germany's tenth largest city. For Central Germany, it is a historical centre of economy, trade and transport, culture, education and science as well as for the "creative scene".

Leipzig's tradition as an important trade fair location in Central Europe with one of the oldest trade fairs in the world dates back to 1190 and was closely linked to Leipzig's long-standing role as the international centre of the fur trade. Leipzig is home to one of the oldest universities (founded in 1409) and the oldest colleges for both trade and music in Germany. Leipzig has a great musical tradition, which goes back to the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and today is based on the importance of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the St. Thomas's Boys Choir.

UofLeipzig Augustusplatz
Universität Leipzig

Resulting from the "Monday demonstrations" in 1989, which gave a decisive impulse for the sociopolitical change and the end of communism in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Leipzig was described as a hero city. The informal award for the courageous and peaceful commitment of many citizens in the vicinity of Leipzig's St. Nicholas Church shaped the city's reputation after the fall of communism and is taken up in city marketing under the motto "Leipzig Freedom". In addition, Leipzig is known for its wealth of lavishly restored and reconstructed buildings and cultural monuments and canals, the highly diverse zoo, and the Leipziger Neuseenland (New Lakeland of Leipzig), which was created through the repurposing of former open-pit coal mines.

Wandgemälde (Ausschnitt) von Michael Fischer-Art, © Andreas Schmidt, Leipzig Travel

Educational institutions such as the University of Leipzig and the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences make the city one of the most popular locations in Germany for university students. In addition to the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, numerous other research institutions such as Leibniz Institutes,  iDiv, Bio City Leipzig, the institutes of the Max Planck Society and the Fraunhofer Society are also located here.

The city lies in the middle of a former inland delta, which was repeatedly altered, for example, by the construction of mill ditches (Mühlgräben) and flood protection facilities. In the 1950s, the Pleißemühlgraben and part of the Elstermühlgraben - in the Middle Ages artificial tributaries of the two rivers Pleiße and Weiße Elster, which were used to operate mills in the Middle Ages - were piped or backfilled due to pollution by industrial waste water from lignite processing south and upstream of Leipzig, so that Leipzig partially lost its character as a river city. The discharge of highly toxic waste water had resulted in the rivers being biologically dead. Since the beginning of the 1990s when the main industrial contributors of water pollution ceased activities, both river courses have been gradually uncovered again. Today, there are about 141 kilometres of perennial watercourses within the city area, in addition to intermittent streams and ditches.
Plagwitz Buntgarnwerke, © Andreas Schmidt, Leipzig Travel

Along the rivers,  an extensive alluvial forest area runs in a north-south direction through the city, which was partly transformed into parks in the middle and close to the city centre. The alluvial forest forms a climatically, ecologically and recreationally relevant green link from the surrounding area of Leipzig to the city centre and, despite centuries of direct anthropogenic influence, has preserved a rare flora and fauna. The close link between the floodplain forest and urban development is a unique selling point of Leipzig in Europe.

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Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Leipziger Floßgraben im Auwald, foto: Martin Geisler (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As an international competence centre for environmental sciences, the UFZ investigates interactions between humans and nature under the influence of global change. The research is focused on terrestrial environment, densely populated urban and industrial metropolitan areas, agricultural landscapes and near-natural landscapes. They examine questions of future land use, the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services, the sustainable management of soil and water resources and the effects of chemicals on humans and the environment - from the scale of individual cells and organisms to regional scale.

UFZ Leipzig 2
UFZ Standort Leipzig, © Sebastian Wiedling, UFZ

In six thematic clusters, they deal with water resources, ecosystems of the future, environmental and biotechnologies, chemicals in the environment, modelling and social science issues. The UFZ employs about 1,100 people at its locations in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is financed by the federal government as well as by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

The goal is to demonstrate ways of dealing sustainably with the natural foundations of life for the benefit of mankind and the environment.

Thema: Grundwasser
© André Künzelmann, UFZ

The 65 scientists of the thematic area "Water Resources and Environment" observe, analyse and model the water cycle in its different compartments. They seek to quantify the water supply in selected catchment areas, as well as investigate which substances from natural and anthropogenic sources enter the water cycle on which paths, how they are transformed along flow and transport paths, and which processes are dominant and decisive for water quality and ecological status. In addition, these researchers aim to qualitatively and quantitatively record the functions of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems for the water and matter balance and the safeguarding of biological diversity in such a way that goes beyond merely describing their conditions.

Direct-Push-Technologie, © André Künzelmann, UFZ


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This article is partly based on the articles Leipzig and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the double license GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported. A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.

Hochwasser im Auwald, © André Künzelmann, UFZ

Sources of the images used: Leipzig Travel, pixabay, UFZ and Wikipedia.