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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Graduate Program (M.Sc.) - Global Change Ecology

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La Palma Science School 2014

How do plants adapt to a changing environment? Can we collect drinking water with the help of a pine forest? In which way do different plant species interact?

To get answers to these and other exciting research questions was the major goal of this year’s field course on La Palma, the North-Western island of the Canaries. It offered 23 students the chance to get an exclusive insight into the diverse ecosystems of the island. The field experience challenged the students to address ecological issues while dealing with variable environmental conditions. This way, two highly important concerns in the face of global change, that go hand in hand, were combined.

During the winter term the students started to work in groups of three to propose a hypothesis on their individual topic. Practical limits of conducting the study had to be detected and all the necessary background information and material needed to be collected.
Finally, at the end of February, all the theoretical preparation could be applied practically in the field. The first two days were spent with getting an introduction into the often still untouched ecosystems of the volcanic island by the organizers Prof. Dr. Anke Jentsch and Prof. Dr. Carl Beierkuhnlein. Within the rest of the two weeks it was up to the students to manage their time and to get their data individually within the groups. They had to challenge practical problems such as access to study sites, weather conditions and time limitation and learned (by doing) what it means to conduct an experiment in the field with given conditions and to perform standardized methods in order to get statistically valuable results.

During the next semester, the students will be guided through the process of analyzing their data and communicating their findings in a written paper.

above the clouds: Roque de los Muchachos

Helpful and good advices came not only from the two main organizers but also from invited scientists and professors from all over the world:

  • Prof. Dr. Carl Beierkuhnlein, Universität Bayreuth link
  • Prof. Dr. Anke Jentsch, Universität Bayreuth   link
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Foken, Universität Bayreuth link
  • Prof. Dr. Ole Vetaas, University of Bergen link
  • Prof. Dr. Alessandro Chiarucci, Università di Siena link
  • Prof. Dr. Richard Field, University of Nottingham link
  • Prof. Dr. José-Maria Fernández-Palacios, Universidad La Laguna link
  • Dr. Manuel Steinbauer, Universität Bayreuth  link

The summer school was organised by the Department of Biogeograpy and Global Change Ecology (M.Sc.).

Research groups:

Each group of participants was working on one of the following topics:

  1. Lava flows as natural laboratories for studies on succession
  2. Are there rules for facilitation on extreme sites? How do plant species profit from other species?
  3. What are the most sensitive ecosystems for increasing climatic variability or changes in seasonality on La Palma (future experiments).
  4. Leaf traits in altitudinal gradients – trait diversity and adaptation to climatic constraints.
  5. Microclimate and environmental conditions of two extremely rare island endemic /Lotus/ species.
  6. Ecosystem inertia and fire as a driver for ecosystem dynamics.
  7. Competitive niche sharing between endemic and invasive species.

 La Palma Februar 2014

+++ Application deadline has passed, next application starting in October 2014 +++

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