(* = Kurzbeitrag)
Das «Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas» – sein Stellenwert gestern, heute, morgen
(von 1994 bis 2006 vergeben)
Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Biologie, Dokumentation, Laudatio, Urs Glutz von Blotzheim, Kurt M. Bauer
Schweiz, Mitteleuropa, USA
The «Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas» – its value yesterday, today, and tomorrow. (1) The «Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas» (Handbook of the birds of Central Europe) by Urs N. Glutz von Blotzheim & Kurt M. Bauer, which appeared between 1966 and 1997 (22 part-volumes, 15332 pages) is a work of superlatives. «There is nothing quite like it in the ornithological literature of the entire world» (Ernst Mayr, in a letter to U. Glutz von Blotzheim, 23 January 1969). Its publication marked the opening of a new era in Central European ornithology. The aim of the work was no longer the «brief summary of current knowledge» (Niethammer 1937–1942) of its predecessor, but just the opposite: «a documentation of the biology [of the birds of Central Europe] that is as comprehensive and dependable as possible» (Glutz von Blotzheim et al. 1971). The concept developed by the two principal editors – Urs Glutz von Blotzheim and Kurt Bauer – proved to be robust and modern. Particular emphasis was laid on closing gaps in our knowledge through cooperation with specialists and general ornithologists, both professional and amateur. For the first time in such an encyclopedia the contemporary themes reflecting the progress made in ornithology since about 1950 were systematically treated. Special attention was given to the disciplines of ecology, ethology, and population biology. In the course of the 35-year composition of the «Handbuch», the chief editors were able to persuade a large number of research and field ornithologists – from 11 countries be-longing to opposing political blocks at the time – to contribute to the enterprise. This climate made a substantial contribution to the establishment of supraregional collaboration and clearly defined standards in Central European avifaunal projects. By the creation of an overview of a previously unmanageable number of sources, the extensive inclusion of original material, and a synthesis based on evaluation, the two principal editors elevated the «Handbuch» far above the level of a simple compilation of available knowledge. Their commitment to this epochal task, and the discipline, consistency, and continuity evident in their work are exemplary. The concept of the «Handbuch» has become a model for similar projects in several countries and continents.
(2) «The aim of the ‹Handbuch› is to inspire future research» (U. Glutz von Blotzheim in Guidelines for authors of species monographs; unpubl.). The «Handbuch» is today the most important single source of information for practically every aspect of ornithology in Central Europe. Because of its consistently maintained structure, the precision of its information, the high proportion of original data, and the completeness of its bibliographic sources, it has become the reliable work of reference for scientists, amateurs, and nature conservationists in the preparation of their projects, studies, or publications. It represents the «state of the art» up to 1997. The constant change in ecosystems – and of course in bird communities and numbers in Central Europe – has actually accelerated since then. Against this background, the wealth of information and great volume of original data contained in the «Handbuch» constitute an indispensible database for meta-analyses and comparative studies examining ecosystem changes. The significance of the «Handbuch» as a mine of data can therefore only increase in the future.
(3) The «Handbuch» will be the last such encyclopedic work in book form. The exponential rise in the volume of ornithological knowledge demands innovative techniques of collation and overview. Only in this way can such a mass of knowledge be utilized. The rapid advances of this digital age are opening up new dimensions in interactive technology, not only in the selection and collection of information from the entire spectrum of ornithology but also in its analysis and visualization. Internet portals serving the collection of avifaunal data, such as «eBird» in the U.S.A. and «ornitho» in parts of Europe have become established in a surprisingly short time and already enjoy great popularity. They will ensure the expansion and evolution of the knowledge contained in the «Handbuch» into the digital future, and stimulate the interest in Nature that exists in society as a whole.
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