Quantitative Biogeography



Prof. Dr. Thomas Hickler
Professor for Biogeography, Head of Senckenberg Data and Modelling Centre, Head of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography', Speaker of GRADE Sustain (Goethe Graduate Academy)

My main research interest is to understand the distribution of life on earth (e.g. species, biodiversity, vegetation types, ecosystems) through space and time. I am particularly interested in interactions between climate and the terrestrial biosphere. This includes potential impacts of climate change on species, ecosystems and associated ecosystem services, as well as the role of the biosphere in the earth climate system (e.g. carbon and water cycling). Methodologically, vegetation and ecosystem modelling at local to global scales has been at the core of my work.

Examples of current research projects:

– GEOEssential
– EarthShape: Earth Shaping by Biota 
– Ecosystem Management Support for Climate Change in Southern Africa (EMSAfrica)
– The open Climate Impacts Encyclopedia (ISIpedia)
– Developing dynamic regional to global vegetation models
–  Accounting for habitat characteristics and biotic interactions in biodiversity models
– Modelling the role of fire in the functioning of the terrestrial biosphere
– Effects of plant trait variability on ecosystem stability and resilience
– Assessing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem Services
– Causes and ecosystem impacts of megafauna extinctions
– Impacts of climate change and air pollution on mountain ecosystems in Scandinavia, France and Spain

Examples of environmental impact assessments:

– Intergovermental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), ongoing
Policy support tools and methodologies for scenario analysis and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services 
– North Sea Region Climate Change Assessment (NOSCCA, chapter Terrestrial Ecosystems)

BSc. and MSc. topics (‘Abschlussarbeiten’)

Dr. Mateus Dantas de Paula
Researcher, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'

Research interests

My work is focused on understanding the dynamics of tropical forests, its natural spatial and temporal patterns, and its response to anthropogenic pressures. In order to embrace its complexity, I use forest modelling and remote sensing as tools for tropical forest research, ultimately aiming for future applications in order to halt biodiversity loss in a future with strong human tropical presence.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences (2006), Master’s degree in plant ecology (2009) in Pernambuco Federal University and PhD (2017) in Ecological Modelling from the University of Osnabrück. I have experience in the field of ecology, with emphasis in forest ecology; ecological modelling, with focus on forest dynamics of fragmented landscapes and geographical information systems, climate change with focus on the carbon and hydrology cycles.


Forest modelling, Animal-plant interactions, Forest fragmentation, Remote sensing, Carbon and hydrological cycles

Current Projects

• RESPECT – A4: Integration of ecophysiological processes and biotic interactions within a dynamic vegetation model (LSMBio): tree hydraulics, trait diversity, tree recruitment and insect herbivory

• GEOESSENTIAL – WP4.5: Evaluate the application of EO products to inform dynamic models

External Links

List of my publications on Google Scholar
My profile at ResearchGate
Follow me on Twitter @mateusddp

Dr. Matthew Forrest
PostDoc, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography' Member of 'Data and Modelling Centre'

Research interests

The main focuses of my research are vegetation and ecosystem processes and the role of vegetation in the Earth system. To study these topics I use process-based models (primarily the Dynamic Global Vegetation Model LPJ-GUESS) applied to spatial scales ranging from regional to global. Whilst much of my work involves improving the vegetation simulations for the present day and recent past (in particular utilising the wealth of remote sensing data made available by satellites) I also study vegetation in past geological ages (the Miocene) and simulate the effects of climate change on a vegetation and ecosystem functioning in the forthcoming century.

Specific projects

• Climate Change Impacts in Turkish Vegetation – A BMBF-funded project in collaboration with Turkish and British partners.  The overall goal is to produce a high-resolution environmental-risk map of the consequences of climate change in Turkey. Our role is to adapt the global version LPJ-GUESS to better describe the Turkish vegetation and then project the future changes to vegetation and productivity using climate data from a regional climate model.  The study is performed at a 1km resolution and makes use of both remotely sensed data and field observation from Turkish partners. In particular the very high spatial resolution (1km) and the use of locally-gathered soil depth information (novel for LPJ-GUESS but critical for calculating plant-available water in arid zones) are of particular value for this regional impacts study. 

• Vegetation in the Miocene – Using the output from a palaeoclimate model to provide meteorological data for LPJ-GUESS we are reconstructing the vegetation in Late Miocene (~10 million years ago) and investigating CO2 concentrations and some of the atmosphere-biosphere interactions that shaped our planet’s evolution.

• Coupling LPJ-GUESS to an Atmospheric Chemistry enabled GCM – With support from MPI Chemistry in Mainz I am working to couple LPJ-GUESS to the EMAC atmospheric chemistry model utilising the powerful MESSy interface.  This work will enabled investigations of many atmosphere-biosphere interactions and feedbacks including: trace gas emissions from vegetation and fire, changing vegetation structure and function, tropospheric ozone damage to plants and Nitrogen fertilisation and emissions.

• Fire in the Earth System – I am also working to improve the process-based representation of wildfire (in particular the SPITFIRE model) in vegetation models. Fire is key in shaping the functioning and structure of large areas of the terrestrial land surface and is responsible for large carbon dioxide and other trace gas fluxes. 

I am also the BiK-F liaison with the Frankfurt Cloud, a collaborative venture between Goethe University of Frankfurt and sponsors including Deutsche Bank AG and Interxion Deutschland GmbH.


As is apparent from my CV and previous publications, I am new to the area of Earth Systems Science, my previous research life was in the field of Experimental Particle Physics. I hope to bring ideas and techniques from Physics to my new endeavours.

Outside of science I enjoy playing football, various games of skill and chance, music and devil’s advocate. I also like to get out into the world and spend slightly too much time worrying about the state of things.  

Short CV

2010 PhD awarded, University of Glasgow
2005-2010 PhD Studies in experimental high-energy physics, University of Glasgow/Deutsches Electronen Synchrotron (DESY), Hamburg
2005 MSci awarded, University of Glasgow
2001-2005 BSc/MSci Studies in Physics and Mathematics, University of Glasgow



Dr. Gitta Lasslop
Researcher, DFG own position (DFG eigene Stelle), Member of Emmy Noether Research Group 'Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Earth System'

External Links

DFG Project ‘Interactions between fire, vegetation and climate’ https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/338130981?language=en

Profile on Researchgate https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gitta_Lasslop

Dr. Hanno Seebens
PostDoc, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'

Research interests

I am basically fascinated by the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecological processes and the anthropogenic influence on natural systems. The main focus of my current work is the macroecology of alien species with a special emphasis on the spatio-temporal dynamics of alien species spread. Together with many other invasion biologists, I establish and analyse the networks of global spread of alien species and develop models to explain the observed dynamics. But I also worked on the dynamics of global cargo ship movements and its potential changes under climate change, the analysis of long-term dynamics of planktonic species and the analysis of complex networks.

Here are some of recent topics:
– Marine bioinvasion caused by global shipping 
– The global spread of vascular alien plants 
– Biogeography in the Anthropocene
– Metacommunity dynamics 
– Analysis of complex networks

 You can find out more about my work here and about me here.


Seebens, H., T. M. Blackburn, E. E. Dyer, P. Genovesi, P. E. Hulme, J. M. Jeschke, S. Pagad, P. Pyšek, M. Winter, M. Arianoutsou, S. Bacher, B. Blasius, G. Brundu, C. Capinha, L. Celesti-Grapow, W. Dawson, S. Dullinger, N. Fuentes, H. Jäger, J. Kartesz, M. Kenis, H. Kreft, I. Kühn, B. Lenzner, A. Liebhold, A. Mosena, D. Moser, M. Nishino, D. Pearman, J. Pergl, W. Rabitsch, J. Rojas-Sandoval, A. Roques, S. Rorke, S. Rossinelli, H. E. Roy, R. Scalera, S. Schindler, K.Štajerová, B. Tokarska-Guzik, M. van Kleunen, K. Walker, P. Weigelt, T. Yamanaka and F. Essl (2017) No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications 8:14435 (open access).

Seebens, H., F. Essl and B. Blasius (2017) The intermediate distance hypothesis of biological invasions. Ecology Letters 20:158–165.

Casties, I., H. Seebens and E. Briski (2016) Importance of geographic origin for invasion success: A case study of the North and Baltic Seas versus the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River region. Ecology and Evolution (Open access) 6:8318–8329.

Seebens, H., N. Schwartz, P..J Schupp, B. Blasius (2016) Predicting the spread of marine species introduced by global shipping. PNAS 113(20): 5646-5651. doi:10.1073/pnas.1524427113

van Kleunen, M., W. Dawson, F. Essl, J. Pergl, M. Winter, E. Weber, H. Kreft, P. Weigelt, J. Kartesz, M. Nishino, L. A. Antonova, J. F. Barcelona, F. J. Cabezas, D. Cárdenas, J. Cárdenas-Toro, N. Castaño, E. Chacón, C. Chatelain, A. L. Ebel, E. Figueiredo, N. Fuentes, Q. J. Groom, L. Henderson, Inderjit, A. Kupriyanov, S. Masciadri, J. Meerman, O. Morozova, D. Moser, D. Nickrent, A. Patzelt, P. B. Pelser, M. P. Baptiste, M. Poopath, M. Schulze, H. Seebens, W.-s. Shu, J. Thomas, M. Velayos, J. J. Wieringa & P. Pyšek. (2015) Alien plants in the Anthropocene: exchange and accumulation of species around the world. Nature 525 (7567): 100-103.

Seebens, H., F. Essl, W. Dawson, N. Fuentes, D. Moser, J. Pergl, P. Pyšek, M. van Kleunen, E. Weber, M. Winter and B. Blasius (2015) Global trade will accelerate plant invasions in emerging economies under climate change. Global Change Biology 21 (11): 4128–4140. Research Highlight in Nature Plants

Essl, F., S. Bacher, T. Blackburn, O. Booy, G. Brundu, S. Brunel, A.-C. Cardoso, R. Eschen, B. Gallardo, B. Galill, E. García-Berthou, P. Genovesi, Q. Groom, C. Harrower, P. E. Hulme, S. Katsanevakis, M. Kenis, I. Kühn, S. Kumschick, K. Martinou, W. Nentwig, C. O’Flynn, S. Pagad, J. Pergl, P. Pyšek, W. Rabitsch, D. M. Richardson, A. Roques, H. E. Roy, R. Scalera, S. Schindler, H. Seebens, S. Vanderhoeven, M. Vilà, J. R.U. Wilson, A. Zenetos and J. M. Jeschke (2015) Crossing frontiers in tackling pathways of biological invasions. BioScience 65 (8): 769-782.

Capinha, C., F. Essl, H. Seebens, D. Moser, and H.M. Pereira (2015) The dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography in the Anthropocene. Science 348 (6240): 1248-1251.

Seebens, H., M.T. Gastner, and B. Blasius (2013) The risk of marine bioinvasion caused by global shipping. Ecology Letters 16(6): 782-790. rated in Faculty 1000 as “extraordinary”

Seebens, H., U. Einsle, and D. Straile (2013) Deviations from Synchrony: Spatio-temporal Variability of Zooplankton Community Dynamics in a Large Lake. Featured Article in Journal of Plankton Research 35(1): 22-32. (1st of “Most read articles of JPR in February”)

Woolley-Meza, O., C. Thiemann, D. Grady, J. Lee, H. Seebens, B. Blasius, D. Brockmann (2011) Complexity in human transportation networks: a comparative analysis of worldwide air transportation and global cargo-ship movements. The European Physikal Journal B 84: 589-600.

Seebens, H., U. Einsle, and D. Straile (2009) Copepod life cycle adaptations and success in response to phytoplankton spring bloom phenology. Global Change Biology 15: 1394-1404.

Seebens, H., D. Straile, R. Hoegg, H. B. Stich and U. Einsle (2007) Population dynamics of a freshwater calanoid copepod: Complex responses to changes in trophic status and climate variability. Limnology and Oceanography 52: 2364-2372. 

Dr. Martin Thurner
PostDoc, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'

Research interests

My main interest is in the response and feedback of the carbon cycle in the land vegetation to climate   change,   with   a   special   focus   on   boreal   and   temperate   forest   ecosystems.   I   am particularly   interested   if   increases   in   plant   respiration   and   forest   mortality   due   to   rising temperatures and more frequent and severe climate extremes may outweigh gross productivity increases   in   the   future.   In   order   to   address   these   research   questions,   the   monitoring   of vegetation characteristics and dynamics therein by remote sensing technologies will be of vital importance. I am using remote sensing-based information on the spatial distribution of forest carbon stocks (biomass) in synergy with field data in order to evaluate, calibrate and improve global vegetation models.

External Links

Martin Thurner on Twitter  
Martin Thurner at Researchgate  
Martin Thurner at Google scholar  
Personal website  

Data products

Carbon stock distribution (biomass) in boreal and temperate forests (Thurner et al., 2014) https://www.bgc-jena.mpg.de/geodb/projects/Home.php 

Sapwood biomass carbon in northern boreal and temperate forests (Thurner et al., in press) https://bolin.su.se/data/Thurner-2019


Convener   of   the   EGU   2019   session   BG2.12:   Constraining   present   and   future   global vegetation  dynamics  and carbon stocks https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2019/session/32157

Short CV

Since 01/2019  Postdoc at BiK-F
2016-2018 Postdoc at Stockholm University and the Bolin Centre for Climate  Research
2011-2016 PhD student at MPI Biogeochemistry (2011-2014) and Stockholm University   (2014-2016),   thesis   defended   at   Friedrich   Schiller University Jena
2008-2011 M.Sc.  Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing at FSU Jena
2005-2008  B.Sc. Geography at FSU Jena

Selected publications

Thurner, M., Beer, C., Crowther, T., Falster, D., Manzoni, S., Prokushkin, A., Schulze, E.-D.(2019): Sapwood biomass carbon in northern boreal and temperate forests. Global Ecology and Biogeographyhttps://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/geb.12883

Erb, K.-H., Kastner, T., Plutzar, C., Bais, A.L.S., Carvalhais, N., Fetzel, T., Gingrich, S., Haberl, H., Lauk, C., Niedertscheider, M., Pongratz, J., Thurner, M., Luyssaert, S. (2018): Unexpectedly large impact of forest management and grazing on global vegetation biomass. Nature, 553, 73-76. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25138

Thurner, M., Beer, C., Ciais, P., Friend, A.D., Ito, A., Kleidon, A., Lomas, M.R., Quegan, S., Rademacher, T.T., Schaphoff, S., Tum, M., Wiltshire, A., Carvalhais, N. (2017): Evaluation of climate-related carbon turnover processes in global vegetation models for boreal and temperate forests. Global Change Biology, 23, 8, 3076-3091. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13660

Thurner, M., Beer, C., Carvalhais, N., Forkel, M., Santoro, M., Tum, M., Schmullius, C. (2016): Large-scale variation in forest carbon turnover rate related to climate. Geophysical Research Letters, 43, 4576-4585. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL068794

Thurner, M., Beer, C., Santoro, M., Carvalhais, N., Wutzler, T., Schepaschenko, D., Shvidenko, A., Kompter, E., Ahrens, B., Levick, S.R., Schmullius, C. (2014): Carbon stock and density of northern boreal and temperate forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23, 3, 297-310. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12125

Carvalhais, N., Forkel, M., Khomik, M., Bellarby, J., Jung, M., Migliavacca, M., Mu, M., Saatchi, S., Santoro, M., Thurner, M., Weber, U., Ahrens, B., Beer, C., Cescatti, A., Randerson, J.T., Reichstein, M. (2014): Global covariation of carbon turnover times with climate in terrestrial ecosystems. Nature, 514, 213-217. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13731

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

Research interests

My research interests are in the field of climate-vegetation interactions and human influences. This matches well with the research concept ‘Adaptive Resilience of Ecosystems’ of the BMBF-funded SPACES project ARS AfricaE (www.ars-africae.org). ARS AfricaE focuses on the effect of disturbances like land use (change) and climate change on semi-arid ecosystems and ecosystem adaptation and resilience. Within the scope of this project I am working with the dynamic vegetation model aDGVM2 with a focus on Southern African savannah. With my research I am trying to improve the representation of ecosystem fluxes (eddy covariance) and carbon cycling as well as the modelling of plant water relations, plant phenology and plant ecophysiology in the model.


Wolfgang Traylor
Ph.D. student, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'
Muhammad-Sohaib Younis
Ph.D. student, Member of Research Group 'Quantitative Biogeography'
Ricarda Prinz
Administrative coordination of Research Group 'Biogeography and Ecosystem Ecology', 'Evolutionary Analyses and Biological Archives' and 'Molecular Evolutionary Biology'