Bild Funktionelle Ökologie und globaler Wandel

Senior Scientist Group

Functional Ecology and Global Change

Human actions globally jeopardise natural ecosystems. We investigate how these human impacts and anthropogenic climate change modify biodiversity and ecological processes and functions. Our research primarily aims to disentangle the functional causes and consequences of global biodiversity loss. The results of our research are also used to develop potential future scenarios of ecological communities and ecosystem functions.

Our work covers three main research fields: plant-animal-interactions, experimental plant ecology and global change models. In all fields, we examine the complex networks of species interactions in ecological communities. Most of our research is centred on plant-bird interactions, which are important for the stability of ecological communities as well as for ecosystem functions, such as pollination, seed dispersal and plant regeneration.

To investigate the interactions between plants and birds, we work in a variety of ecosystems, ranging from the tropics (e.g. the Andes and Mount Kilimanjaro) over the subtropics (e.g. South African Fynbos) to temperate systems (e.g. the Alps). In our research, we combine observational and experimental approaches with comprehensive collections of functional species traits from natural-history museums. We also test and evaluate our insights into the driving factors and processes in ecological communities in meta-analyses and simulation models at large, macroecological scales.

Selected Projects

Selected Publications

Albrecht et al. 2018. Plant and animal functional diversity drive mutualistic network assembly across an elevational gradient. Nature Communications, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05610-w

Bender et al. 2018. Morphological trait matching shapes plant–frugivore networks across the Andes. Ecography, https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.03396

Donoso et al. 2020. Downsizing of animal communities triggers stronger functional than structural decay in seed-dispersal networks. Nature Communications, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15438-y

Neuschulz et al. 2018. Biotic interactions and seed deposition rather than abiotic factors determine recruitment at elevational range limits of an alpine tree. Journal of Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.12818

Schleuning et al. 2020. Trait-Based Assessments of Climate-Change Impacts on Interacting Species. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2019.12.010