Senior Scientist Working Group

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Earth System

The basic supply of ecosystem goods and services such as food production, species richness or climate stabilization is necessary for mankind. However, many ecosystem services have been strongly degraded during recent decades due to the excessive exploitation of natural resources.

In our junior research group we focus on the impact of climate change on such ecosystem services as well as strategies for sustainable land management in order to maintain them. To do this, we develop and improve the model systems aDGVM and aDVGM2 which couple vegetation dynamics, functional diversity and ecosystem services as well as the impact of climate change and land use.

We use the new model approaches to study how vegetation, functional diversity, biome boundaries and ecosystem services respond to climate change and whether diversity influences the impact of climate change on vegetation. We further assess how land management influences ecosystem dynamics and we develop sustainable land use strategies for current and future climate conditions, using Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) storylines. Our focus is on tropical ecosystems of South America, Africa and Asia.


Selected Publications

Pfeiffer M, Hoffmann M, Scheiter S, Nelson W, Isselstein J, Ayisi K, Odhiambo J, Rötter R (2022) Modeling the effects of alternative crop-livestock management scenarios on important ecosystem services in smallholder farming from a landscape perspective. Biogeosciences, 19, 3935—3958.

Martens C, Hickler T, Davis-Reddy C, Engelbrecht F, Higgins SI, von Maltitz GP, Midgley GF, Pfeiffer M, Scheiter S (2021) Large uncertainties in future biome changes in Africa call for flexible climate adaptation strategies. Global Change Biology, 27, 340-358.

Scheiter S, Kumar D, Corlett RT, Gaillard C, Langan L, Lapuz RS, Martens C, Pfeiffer M, Tomlinson KW (2020) Climate change promotes transitions to tall evergreen vegetation in tropical Asia. Global Change Biology, 26, 5106-5124.

Kumar D, Pfeiffer M, Gaillard C, Langan L, Martens C, Scheiter S. 2020. Misinterpretation of Asian savannas as degraded forest can mislead management and conservation policy under climate change. Biological Conservation 241: 108293

Scheiter S, Schulte J, Pfeiffer M, Martens C, Erasmus BFN, Twine WC. 2019. How does climate change influence the economic value of ecosystem services in savanna rangelands?. Ecological Economics 157: 342-356

Pfeiffer M, Langan L, Linstädter A, Martens C, Gaillard C, Ruppert J, Higgins SI, Mudongo E, Scheiter S. 2019. Grazing and aridity reduce perennial grass abundance in semi-arid rangelands – insights from a trait-based dynamic vegetation model. Ecological Modelling 395: 11-22

Gaillard C, Langan L, Pfeiffer M, Kumar D, Martens C, Higgins SI, Scheiter S. (2018. African shrub distribution emerges via height – sapwood conductivity trade-off. Journal of Biogeography 45: 2815-2826

Langan L, Higgins SI, Scheiter S. 2017. Climate-biomes, pedo-biomes or pyro-biomes: which world view explains the tropical forest – savanna boundary in South America? Journal of Biogeography 44: 2319-2330

Scheiter S, Higgins SI, Beringer J, Hutley LB. 2015. Climate change and long-term fire management impacts on Australian savannas. New Phytologist 205: 1211-1226

Scheiter S, Langan, L, Higgins SI. 2013. Next generation dynamic global vegetation models: learning from community ecology. New Phytologist 198: 957-969

Higgins SI, Scheiter S. 2012. Atmospheric CO2 forces abrupt vegetation shifts locally, but not globally. Nature 488: 209-212