Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Earth System



Dr. Simon Scheiter
Senior scientist, Head of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Earth System'


My primary research interest is to understand the interactions between vegetation, atmosphere and humans. Therefore, I develop and apply different modelling approaches, particularly process-based dynamic vegetation models (DGVMs), to simulate ecosystem dynamics, biogeochemical cycles, and diversity. Vegetation models are coupled with land use models to help us understand how climate change and land-use influence ecosystems, diversity and ecosystem services, and to help develop strategies for the sustainable use of natural resources.


South African Limpopo Landscapes network

South African Limpopo Landscapes Network (SALLnet)

Ecosystem Management Support for Climate Change in Southern Africa (EMSAfrica

Extenal Links

Researchgate Profile of Simon Scheiter
ResearcherID Profile of Simon Scheiter
aDGVM website


Selected publications (link to full publication list):

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 Conservation241, 108293.

Scheiter S; Moncrieff GR; Pfeiffer M; Higgins SI (2020) African biomes are most sensitive to changes in CO2 under recent and near-future CO2 conditions. Biogeosciences17, 1147-1167.

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 Economics157, 342-356.

Pfeiffer, Mirjam; Langan, Liam; Linstädter, Anja; Martens, Carola; Gaillard, Camille; Ruppert, Jan; Higgins, Steven; Mudongo, Edwin; Scheiter, Simon (2019) Grazing and aridity reduce perennial grass abundance in semi-arid rangelands – insights from a trait-based dynamic vegetation model. Ecological Modelling395, 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 Biogeography45, 2815-2826.

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, Higgins SI, Beringer J, Hutley LB (2015) Climate change and long-term fire management impacts on Australian savannas. New Phytologist205, 1211-1226.

Scheiter, S., Langan, L., Higgins S.I. (2013): Next generation dynamic global vegetation models: learning from community ecology. New Phytologist198, 957-969.

Higgins S.I., Scheiter, S. (2012): Atmospheric CO2 forces abrupt vegetation shifts locally, but not globally. Nature488, 209-212.

Carola Martens
Ph.D. student, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'


My research interests involve the field of climate-vegetation interactions and human influences. This matches well with the BMBF-funded SPACES project EMSAfrica (Ecosystem Management Support for Climate Change in Southern Africa). EMSAfrica focuses on the effects of natural disturbances, such as the impacts of land-use and climate change on the structure and functioning of South African terrestrial ecosystems. It also focuses on the production of information relevant to ecosystem management in the region.  Within the scope of this project I am working with the dynamic vegetation models (DVMs) aDGVM and aDGVM2 with a focus on Southern African vegetation changes. By using DVMs, I would like to detect changes in ecosystems and identify areas that require special attention in ecosystem management. Thus, I can contribute to protecting and maintaining biodiversity in vulnerable ecosystems.


EMSAfrica – Ecosystem Management Support for Climate Change in Southern Africa



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

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

Scheiter, S., Schulte, J., Pfeiffer, M., Martens, C., Erasmus, B. F. N. and Twine, W. C.: How Does Climate Change Influence the Economic Value of Ecosystem Services in Savanna Rangelands?, Ecological Economics, 157, 342–356,, 2019.

Gaillard, C., Langan, L., Pfeiffer, M., Kumar, D., Martens, C., Higgins, S. I., and Scheiter, S.: African shrub distribution emerges via a trade-off between height and sapwood conductivity, Journal of Biogeography, 45, 1–12,, 2018.

Scheiter, S., Gaillard, C., Martens, C., Erasmus, B. F. N., and Pfeiffer, M.: How vulnerable are ecosystems in the Limpopo province to climate change?, South African Journal of Botany, 116, 86–95,, 2018.