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One Research Program: Changing Earth – Sustaining our Future

Climate change, the extinction of species, environmental pollution, and the increasing vulnerability of a technological society to natural disasters are among the greatest challenges of our time.

We take a systemic approach to researching our natural environment; from the land surface and the oceans to the most remote polar regions. After all, it will only be possible to plot a course into a sustainable future with in-depth knowledge of the Earth system, innovative technologies, strategic solutions, and evidence-based recommendations for policymakers.

Seven Helmholtz Centers are collaborating to gather deep insights into the complex relationships between the processes that take place on our planet. What are the causes and effects of global environmental changes? How can natural resources be used sustainably? How can we protect ourselves more effectively from disasters and natural hazards like droughts, heavy rainfall, storms, floods, and earthquakes? We aim to develop solutions and strategies to help humankind adapt to changing environmental conditions, to minimize global threats like climate change, and to understand the potential impact of these risks, not only for the environment but also for the economy and society.

We have bundled the digital world of Helmholtz Earth System Research on a central landing page. Helmholtz Earth.

To meet the complex challenges of modern Earth system research, we are collaborating in one joint research program, "Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future." We have therefore organized our research areas into nine topics as well as several cross-cutting activities and alliances. Our aim is to interlink the knowledge generated through this work and promote cooperation between Helmholtz Centers and with national and international partners. To make sure that our research findings are brought to public attention and are able to influence developments in society, we have set up a synthesis and communication platform.

Changing Earth - Sustaining our Future

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"Integrated research for adressing global water challanges"

Brochure of the Helmholtz Water Network

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Susanne Buiter

Research Field Coordinator and Vice-President Research Field Earth & Environment
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences

Cathrin Brüchmann

Chief Research Manager Earth and Environment
Helmholtz Association


  • Earth & Environment

    To mitigate climate change, a global shift in energy production away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources is key and has priority over all other measures. However, it is also…

  • Earth & Environment

    The EU has passed the landmark nature restoration law (NRL) on 27 February 2024. Ecologist Guy Pe’er from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ explains why the NRL is so important and…

  • Earth & Environment

    Since the German government cut the subsidy for agricultural diesel, farmers have been rallying across the country in noisy protests. They complain that the financial burden is too great. What is…

  • Earth & Environment

    An interdisciplinary team led by volcanologist Thomas Walter from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ is investigating in a new way how the slopes of volcanoes…

  • Earth & Environment

     Every year more than 460 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide. Between 19 and 23 million tons of which ends up as waste in waterways every year – that’s almost two truckloads per minute.…

  • Earth & Environment

    Katja Matthes applied to be head a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group in 2009, and was successful. Since then the climate researcher has become head of the Helmholtz Center GEOMAR in Kiel. In this…

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