Harald Sioli

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Harald Sioli (born August 25, 1910 in Köthen , † October 14, 2004 in Plön ) was a German biologist and limnologist . He is considered to be the founder of Amazon ecology. From 1957 until his retirement in 1974 he was director at the Max Planck Institute for Limnology (until 1966 “Hydrobiological Institute”, today MPI for Evolutionary Biology). With 150 publications in scientific journals and the book "The Amazon: Limnology and Landscape Ecology of a Mighty Tropical River and its Basin" published in 1984, he has made a sustainable contribution to tropical ecology as a whole.

life and work

Sioli went to Brazil in 1934 to conduct ecophysiological studies on toads in the dry northeast of the country. He was interned at the time of the Second World War. In 1945 he began the first limnological work in Amazonia. Using the terms “ white water ”, “ black water ” and “ clear water ”, which are also used by the local population, he developed a scientific classification system for the Amazon rivers and worked on the relationship between water quality and soil chemistry .

From the lack of nutrients in many Amazon rivers, he concluded that the soils in the catchment areas were poor in nutrients and thus contradicted public opinion, which assumed that the Amazon soils were highly fertile. In the mid-1970s he was heavily criticized by Brazilian planners who had drawn up plans for a comprehensive agro-industrial development of the region. Scientifically, he worked primarily with the Brazilian Institute Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia in Manaus . Together with its director Djalma Batista, he founded the magazine AMAZONIANA.

In an interview in 1971, he pointed out that deforestation in the Amazon forests would increase levels of carbon dioxide in the air. The Brazilian press coined the term “green lungs of the planet” for the Amazon forests, assuming that the forest releases oxygen into the atmosphere. However, this was a misinterpretation, as Sioli had pointed out that a forest in equilibrium of growth consumes as much oxygen as it produces. This misinterpretation, however, stimulated the discussion about the importance of the Amazon forests for climate protection . Many of his students are now leading scientists in Brazilian science and administration.

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Gran Cruz in 2000, the highest Brazilian award for scientific work. He was a corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Society for Trocial Ecology .

He devoted the last years of his life to writing memoirs, an excerpt of which was published in 2007.

Commemorative publication and memoirs

  • Neotropical ecosystems. Festschrift in honor of Prof. Dr. Harald Sioli (= Biogeographica. Volume 7). The Hague, Junk 1976, ISBN 90-6193-208-4 .
  • Lived, loved Amazonia. Research trips in the Brazilian rainforest between 1940 and 1962. Edited and edited by Gerd Kohlhepp . Pfeil, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-89937-071-3 .


  • Wolfgang J. Junk: Harald Sioli August 25, 1910 - October 14, 2004. In: Max Planck Society, Yearbook 2005, pp. 127–129.
  • Elke Maier: Adventure on the Amazon. In: MaxPlanckForschung 1/2010 , pp. 92–93, series "Rückblende" (article about Sioli and his work on the Amazon) online

Web links