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

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

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