Sprungmarken

 

Our research Topics:

  • Climate Change and Ecosystem Functioning
  • Climate Extremes and Extreme Weather Events
  • Disturbance, Resilience and Biodiversity
  • Experimental Community Ecology
  • Mountain Invasion Ecology
  • Wilderness and Remote Landscape Ecology
  • Ecological Novelty and Ecosystems Engineers
  • Biotic Interactions and Conservation Biology
  • Grasslands and their community change by climate change
  • Fodder quantity and fodder quality of grasslands under climate change
  • Tree and forest ecology under climate change

 

 

Our research projects:

 

SUSALPS_Logo

The aim of the SUSALPS project is to improve our knowledge on the effects of current and future climate and management on ecosystem functions performed by grasslands. In the process, the general framework of the socio-economy of the specific geographic region will be considered. Based on this improved knowledge, sustainable management options for grasslands in the alps and the foothills of the alps will be developed. These management options will be especially designed to support the climate protection function of grassland soils.

 

Susalps_Stubai2020

 

DroughtNet_Logo

International Drought Experiment

All ecosystems will be impacted to some extent by climate change, with forecasts for more frequent and severe drought likely to have the greatest impact on terrestrial ecosystems. Terrestrial ecosystems are known to vary dramatically in their responses to drought. Coordinated experimental networks, however, are ideally suited for comparative studies at regional to global scales. The Drought-Net Research Coordination Network (RCN) - funded by the US National Science Foundation – is coordinated experimental network aimed at advancing understanding of how and why terrestrial ecosystems across the globe may differ in their sensitivity to drought.

 

DroughtNet_RainoutSehlter

 

NutNet_Logo

NutNet

Two of the most pervasive human impacts on ecosystems are alteration of global nutrient budgets and changes in the abundance and identity of consumers. In spite of the global impacts of these human activities, there have been no globally coordinated experiments to quantify the general impacts on ecological systems. The Nutrient Network (NutNet) is a grassroots research effort to address these questions within a coordinated research network comprised of more than 130 grassland sites worldwide.

 

NutNet_AddOn

 

Forschungsthemen

Dark Diversity Network

DarkDivNet is a global network to explore the dark diversity of plant communities. In January 2019 we have >100 potential study areas all across the world. Why are some species present and others absent in a locality? To answer this central ecological and biogeographical question, we have to explore biodiversity at different spatial scales while also considering species’ habitat preferences. Only a subset of all species in a region can tolerate the ecological conditions of a given site (the site-specific species pool). Of those, not all are realized in local communities. The absent part of the species pool forms the dark diversity of a community.

 

DarkDivNet_Plot

 

HerbDivNet
The Herbaceous Diversity Network

The Herbaceous Diversity Network (HerbDivNet) is a network of researchers working at herbaceous grassland sites in 19 countries located on 6 continents performing coordinated distributed experiments and observations. All HerbDivNet sites are located in areas dominated by herbaceous vegetation representing the regional species composition.

 

HerbDivNet

SIGNAL_Logo

European gradients of resilience in the face of climate extremes

The SIGNAL research project, funded by the BiodivERsA call of the ERA-Net, focuses on the effects of extreme weather events on biodiversity, ecosystem functions, resilience and tipping points in grasslands along a pan-European climatic gradient. Studying the effects of extreme drought on biodiversity and ecosystem functions is a key facet of current climate change research.
SIGNAL will investigate mechanisms of resilience in European grassland prone to novel climate extremes and identify early warning signals of thresholds and regime shifts by installation of replicated experimental manipulations of climate extremes at 8 grassland sites across Europe (field experiments and mesocoms including legumes, invasive species, species richness and within-species diversity). SIGNAL results will provide experimental evidence on mechanisms of resilience across European gradients, which may serve to regulate ecosystem services in the face of climate extremes and foster the identification of early warning signals of thresholds of regime shift.

 

 

 

 

SIGNAL_Site

EVENT 1
Effects of extreme weather events and diversity on ecosystem functions in experimental and natural plant communities

The experiment is carried out in a two-factorial design manipulating
(1) weather events (drought, heavy rain, freeze-thaw cycles, control)
(2) community composition (10 species divided a priori into grasses, dwarf shrubs, and herbs, of which one dwarf shrub and one herb were legumes).
The design consists of 150 plots, each two by two meters in size, with every factorial combination replicated five times. Manipulations are applied in a modified Latin Square design; experimental plant communities are blocked and randomly assigned within each manipulation.

Performance of communities and single species is measured with a variety of parameters, covering all important stages in the life cycle of plants (inter alia cover, above and belowground biomass production, flowering, seed production, germinability, or photosynthetic activity). Furthermore, abiotic parameters like soil moisture, precipitation and temperature are recorded on site. Through cooperation partners, other important ecosystem parameters are analyzed, e.g. gas exchange, soil fauna or microbial activity.

 

Event1_Site

EVENT 2
Consequences of more extreme precipitation regimes interacting with land use practices for productivity and diversity of temperate grassland

In EVENT 2, 5 factors are manipulated:
(1) weather events (early summer drought, late summer drought, weekly irrigation, control)
(2) mowing regimes (2- and 4-strike)
(3) Warming (summer or winter)
(4) winter sprinkling
(5) fertilization.
The design consists of 150 plots, each 1.5x1.5m, each factorial combination in 5-fold replication. Manipulations are arranged according to a modified Latin square; mowing regimes are randomly distributed blockwise within manipulations.

Performance of communities and single species is measured with a variety of parameters, covering all important stages in the life cycle of plants (cover, above and belowground biomass production, phenology, seed production, germinability or photosynthetic activity). Furthermore, abiotic parameters like soil moisture, precipitation and temperature are recorded on site. Through cooperation partners, other important ecosystem parameters are analyzed, e.g. microbial activity, soil fauna, N-cycle, stable isotopes.

 

EVENT 2

EVENT 3
Plasticity and adaptation of key plant species from different provenances to extreme climate events

As growth conditions will change significantly within the next century it is important to know how key plant species will respond to climate change, and, in particular, if they are able to cope with climatic extreme events. Intraspecific genetic differentiation (genotypes/ecotypes/provenances) might provide a chance to adapt to this changing environment.

The aim of this project is to identify suitable provenances of selected key species, which are able to contribute to the conservation of persistent ecosystems with high area occupancy in Bavaria like forests and grassland. In forestry, these provenance trials have a long tradition. However, in agriculture they are hardly established. Besides, traditional experiments focus on transplant-experiments and exposition to local climate. It is now necessary to test provenances with regard to more frequent and severe extreme events.

 

EVENT 3

 

EVENT 4
Events hidden in winter warming: Effects of recurrent soil freeze-thaw cycles on plant performance in the temperate zone

Ongoing global warming is expected to increase the recurrence of soil freeze-thaw cycles (FTC) in cool-temperate and other high-latitude regions due to decreases in snow cover and increased variability of air temperature in winter. FTC currently occur in more than half of the land surface of the northern hemisphere, therefore it is important to explore the ecological implications of their altered regimes due to climate change.

Within this project, we want to analyze the effects of intensified FTC in winter for the aboveand below-ground biomass production of two common vegetation types, grassland and heath, in a controlled field experiment in Central Europe. We are particularly interested in exploring the mechanisms and processes behind observed effects of FTC on plants addressing nitrogen nutrition, photosynthetic activity, root injury, and biotic interactions such as plant competition and root mycorrhization. Finally, we want to assess the longevity of the observed effects of FTC on ecosystem functioning over several growing seasons and discuss implications for plant distribution in future climate of the temperate zone.

 

Event4ÖBG

EVENT 6
Terminal drought experiment

The response of various ecological parameters to annually repeated climatic extreme events was investigated from 2005 to 2009 in the experiment EVENT 1. The surprising conclusion was that productivity of the plant communities remained stable while a number of other parameters showed strong reactions to drought (Jentsch et al. 2011 Journal of Ecology).

In the experiment EVENT 7, we now monitor reactions to drought in the ecosystem in high temporal resolution until the total breakdown of the system. The main research questions are:

(1) Which ecosystem functions get lost first?
(2) Which species and species compositions tolerate drought stress longer?
(3) How long has a drought to last until lethal damage occurs?

This research is relevant in order to study early warning signs for breakdown of ecosystem functions and to allow for estimations of the effectiveness of future, more extreme drought occurrences.

Own research in EVENT has furthermore shown that single plants can adapt to repeated drought events, at least within one vegetation period (Walter et al 2011).
Therefore, we compare in this experiment the response to extreme drought of plant communities with different histories concerning water availability.

 

EVENT 6

EVENT 7
Provenance trials of key European tree and grass species prone to drought and late frost

Climate warming is expected to shorten the duration of winter. However, in temperate grasslands, increased temperature variability and changes to cold acclimation cues could challenge plants by exposing them to frost at times when they are not fully cold acclimated. In particular, basal meristems of grasses at the soil surface are vulnerable to air temperature extremes if there is reduced snow cover, and the latter is predicted for temperate regions with climate warming.

When challenged by climate extremes, genetic variation within populations or dispersal from other populations enables species to persist at a specific location. High inter-specific variation in frost toler-ance can alter species composition if dispersal of frost tolerant ecotypes is limited. Therefore, the future composition of temperate grasslands will depend on the balance between inter- versus intraspecific variation in frost tolerance in an altered climate, yet very little data are available on this topic.

Here, we compare inter-versus intraspecific variation in the responses of grassland plants to winter climate change. Specifically, we examine

(1) plant responses to variation in the frequency and intensity of soil freeze thaw cycles
(2) cold acclimation responses to warmer winters of shorter duration
(3) deacclimation and frost vulnerability in response to mid-winter thaw events

in controlled-environment chamber experiments. We focus on inter-specific variation within German grassland species as compared to ecotypic variation within a single species on a continental scale.

 

EVENT 7

Impacts of Climate Change on fauna, flora and habitats, as well as adaptation strategies

The overall aims of the project initiated by the BfN (Bundesamt für Naturschutz / Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) is first the synthesis of available data and current knowledge on the effects of climate change on species and their habitats, and second the delineation of specific adaptation strategies for nature conservation. The innovation of our approach consists in particularly addressing the effects of changing climatic trends and events on biotic interactions such as pollination, herbivory and communities as well as a selection of species and habitats listed in the Annex of the Habitat Directive.

As a first step a literature database will be established, which covers the current literature (from 2003) on the effects of climate change on fauna, flora and habitats. The next step is the modelling of climate envelopes with the help of different climate models (REMO, STAR, CLM, WettREG) and scenarios (B1, A1B and A2) for European protected species listed in Annex II, IV and V (except plants) of the Habitats Directive. The influence of climate change on biological interactions between species and communities will be analysed, using datasets from long-term experiments and observations. In addition, modelling studies will highlight likely changes of selected habitats listed in the Annex I of the Habitats Directive.

Information obtained from the individual parts will be used in a spatial analysis of the Natura 2000 network. Based on the gained understanding, management recommendations will be derived and an informative brochure for the public will be published.

funding: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

 

KLINAT-FFH

FORKAST
Science and research management of the joint research center FORKAST

The coordination office has the task to manage the joint research of the whole FORKAST group. The group was established due to the “Bavarian Climate Programme 2020” as one of three interdisciplinary research centers. More than 50 scientists within 16 subprojects pursue research on the impact of climate phenomena (such as drought, warming, torrential rain, freeze-thaw-cycles and combinations thereof) on ecosystems. The subprojects are coordinated regarding their content and method of research. The coordination office helps to facilitate the communication between the subprojects, manages the data exchange and organizes project spanning meetings and conferences. It also answers requests from external scientists, administrative organizations and interested persons and coordinates public relations (e.g. websites, press releases, presence on events).

The synthesis of research over the whole FORKAST group such as analyses and meta-analyses as well as joint publications is pursued by the coordination office in close collaboration with the subprojects. Another major goal is the deduction of implications of research results on possible adaptation strategies.

The coordination office also develops contacts to other Bavarian, national and international research centers and networks (e.g. TERACC).

 

FORKAST

FORKAST 01
Plasticity and Adaptive Capacity of Different Provenances of Plant Key Species in the Face of Climatic Extreme Events

As growth conditions will change significantly within the next century it is important to know how key plant species will respond to climate change, and, in particular, if they are able to cope with climatic extreme events. Intraspecific genetic differentiation (genotypes/ecotypes/provenances) might provide a chance to adapt to this changing environment.

The aim of this project is to identify suitable provenances of selected key species, which are able to contribute to the conservation of persistent ecosystems with high area occupancy in Bavaria like forests and grassland. In forestry, these provenance trials have a long tradition. However, in agriculture they are hardly established. Besides, traditional experiments focus on transplant-experiments and exposition to local climate. It is now necessary to test provenances with regard to more frequent and severe extreme events.

 

FORKAST 01

FORKAST 08
Impacts of extreme weather events and diversity on ecosystem functions in experimental and natural plant communities

Impacts of extreme weather events on biotic interactions, balance of matter and ecosystem functions are hardly investigated. First analysis in Bavaria presented significant effects – for example due to drought – on the capacity of plant communities in Middle Europe. Thus functional diversity plays an important role in the conservation of ecosystem functions under climatic oscillations. Above-ground biomass (productivity) and flowering for plant-pollinator-interactions are two essential functional parameters of vegetation for agricultural production.

The aim of this project is to study how grassland vegetation in Bavaria is affected by short-term extreme weather events like drought, torrential rain and freeze-thaw cycles. Based on experiments reactions of productivity and phenology as well as the role of plant diversity for the stability of ecosystem functions are investigated. Nationwide relevant knowledge of effects on ecosystem processes and interactions between organisms due to climate change will be developed by meta-analysis and modelling in cooperation with data-sets of manipulative experiments in open land of Bavarian low mountain ranges, peatlands and the alpine region. The importance of biodiversity for the functionality and resilience of persistent plant communities of grassland ecosystems is investigated to develop adaptation strategies.

 

FORKAST 08

FORKAST 15
Influence of increasing frequency of extreme weather events on soil quality

The project studies how increased frequencies of extreme events influence functionality of soil microbial communities under field conditions in different vegetation types. Microbial processes are involved in all soil nutrient cycles and are therefore considered a factor related to sustainability of soil quality. It is therefore of utmost importance to know if and how extreme weather events change nutrient cycles in the long term with respect to different vegetation types.

To answer these questions, we apply tools from molecular ecology such as enzyme activity analyses and microarray techniques to follow functional traits of microbial communities and statistical analyses of the data under different extreme event scenarios. These tasks will be achieved in cooperation with other projects on samples from different ecosystems and experimental manipulations (grassland: SP 8, SP 5; heathland: SP 4; forest: SP 3, SP 13). We can build on data from several years of measurements in an earlier phase of the EVENT-Experiment and expand to new data from natural stands in order to give estimates on resistance and resilience of the plant-soil-system. The ultimate goal of the project is to deduce long-term prognoses on how climate change will influence ecosystem services such as soil fertility and carbon storage at natural stands and how land use measures have to be optimised in future to reach sustainable soil quality.

 

SUSALPS

ECOPOTENTIAL
Improving future ecosystem benefits through earth observations

A European project of the Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation that focuses on the use of remote sensing to monitor important European protected areas. ECOPOTENTIAL brings together 47 research institutes, universities and companies from 18 countries and is led by Dr. Antonello Provenzale, CNR-Italy, and by Prof. Carl Beierkuhnlein, University of Bayreuth.

 

ECOPOTENTIAL

last modified 2022-01-13