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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Functional and Tropical Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Bettina Engelbrecht

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Active Projects

  • The ecological role of silicon in tropical forests: effects on plant nutrient stochiometry, drought resistance and herbivory

    Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the Earth´s crust and widely recognized to have a variety of functions in plants. Yet we know little about the ecological role of this abundant element in tropical forests, which are among the most species-rich systems on earth and provide important ecosystem services. In this project, we integrate observational data with experimental approaches in the greenhouse, the laboratory and the field to evaluate the effects of Si on nutrient and water relations, and on herbivore defenses in tropical forests. The study will thus substantially contribute to improving the understanding of tropical forests under current and future conditions.

    at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


  • Anthropogenic disturbances and regeneration of semiarid Caatinga - the role of key organisms and their interactions with soil

    The Caatinga Biome in Northeastern Brasil is severely threatened by climate change and chronic anthropogenic disturbance. In this project, we examine how key organisms respond to chronic anthropogenic disturbance and agricultural land use, the effect of disturbance-induced reactions of key organisms on the regeneration dynamic of the Caatinga, and the consequences for ecosystem function and services.


  • Plant-soil feedbacks: unearthing the mechanisms of successional tree species turnover in tropical forests

    Unsustainable use of natural resources is putting tropical forests under tremendous pressure. Secondary forests are becoming evermore-prominent features in tropical landscapes, but we still poorly understand the mechanisms that drive tropical secondary succession, and the importance of plant-fungal interactions is almost completely overlooked. In this project, our goal is to understand the role of soil fungi in driving tree species turnover during secondary succession of tropical forests.

    at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


  • The role of nutrients for the variability of drought effects on community composition and productivity across land use gradients in grasslands: a trait-based approach

    Land use and precipitation are important drivers for shaping community diversity, and ecosystem function in grasslands worldwide, and are two of the main global change drivers. The main aim of this project is to improve our capability of predicting consequences of global change for grasslands through assessing the combined effects of nutrients and drought at the trait and whole plant performance level and integrating them with drought effects on community composition and productivity across land-use gradients in grasslands.

    A project within the Biodiversity Exploratories, DFG Priority Programme 1374


  • Drought and grazing impacts in semi-arid rangelands: Testing a novel trait-based conceptual framework

    Drought and land use are among the most important global change drivers, particularly for dryland ecosystems. Species and communities in dry areas are assumed to be resistant to both grazing and drought (Generalized Grazing model). However, the generality of this model has been called into question in semiarid rangelands dominated by winter annuals, which exhibit a substantially different strategy to cope with drought than perennials. To test a novel trait-based framework that can resolve the apparent inconsistencies, we use a steep rainfall gradient in the Eastern Mediterranean as a model system, and explicitly link traits, whole plant performance, long-term community responses, and distribution patterns.


>> Completed Projects
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