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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Chair of Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins

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Chair of Plant Ecology

We seek to understand why different species of plants grow where they do and to articulate why this matters for the Earth system and human wellbeing.

At the global scale we research controls on the distribution of major vegetation formations (biomes). In this context we are developing new systems for defining biomes and monitoring their change using Earth observation satellites. At a regional scale we develop regional implementations of the models used to predict how vegetation will respond to climate changes (so called Dynamic Global Vegetation Models). At the species level we are developing and using physiologically based species distribution models in a broad range of applications from practical questions such as predicting whether introduced species will become invasive, to macro-evolutionary questions of how diversification processes relate to the ability of clades to exploit niche space. Non-equilibrium dynamics in the reaction of single species, species communities or whole ecosystems to changing environmental conditions is an additional field of our interest.

Our work also involves field, common garden and greenhouse experiments as well as field surveys. We regard the linking of empirical work with statistical and process-based modelling as essential for developing the science of ecology to the point where we can make reliable predictions on issues critical to society such as the survival of biodiversity and the functioning of the Earth System.
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