Geobiodiversity and Climate

The Research Activity “Geobiodiversity and Climate” is dedicated to studying the interactions between processes on the earth’s surface, climate, and ecosystems on different time scales.

In addition, it examines the impact of earth surface processes and climate on the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of species and species communities. A particularly important topic are the effects of the anthropogenic climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. This RA consolidates the geobiodiversity research (paleotopography, paleoclimate, and biodiversity in space and time) at Senckenberg and makes extensive use of the Senckenberg collections. Select examples for the strategic foci within this RA are the reconstruction of paleo-ecosystems and natural climate variability in key regions of the earth (based on excavations, isotope analyses, and integration of various fossil and recent data sets); the study of biotic interactions and ecosystem functions in tropical ecosystems; and the modeling of the effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions.


PD Dr. Matthias Schleuning
Senior scientist, Head of Senior Scientist Group 'Functional Ecology and Global Change'

Fields of interest

I am fascinated by interactions between organisms, especially if they are mutually beneficial for both partners*. To disentangle webs of interacting organisms, I study species interactions in ecological communities along anthropogenic gradients and across large spatial scales. My research aims at the identification of the major ecological and evolutionary drivers of species interactions and at a better understanding of the functional importance of species interactions for entire ecosystems. I hope that this work will help to improve predictions of the consequences of species loss for ecosystem functioning. (*I usually become enthusiastic if one of the interaction partners has wings and a beak.)

– Mutualistic plant-animal networks
– Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
– Functional diversity of ecological communities
– Pollination and seed dispersal by animals
– Plant demography

– Observational and experimental field studies
– Meta-analyses across large spatial scales
– Trait-based network analysis
– Structural equation modeling

Study areas
– Tropical Andes
– Tropical and subtropical Africa
– Germany

Google Scholar Profile

Researcher ID H-2154-2015

ResearchGate Profile

Press coverage:

Interaction Networks
Picky fruit-eating birds are more flexible [English] 
Science Daily, 11 May 2017
Domino-Effekt beim Artensterben [German]
Spiegel Online, 6 January 2017
Fataler Domino-Effekt [German]
Frankfurter Rundschau, 5 January 2017
The loss of plant species triggers the extinction of animals [English]
Science Daily, 4 January 2017
Flexible Tropen-Arten [German]
Neue Züricher Zeitung (CH) – Print und Online, 26 September 2012 
Tropische Artenvielfalt macht Vögel nicht zu Spezialisten [German]
Der Standard (A), 21 September 2012

Conservation biology
Warum tropische Wälder dringend große Vögel brauchen [German]
Der Standard (A), 24 December 2016
Loss of large fruit-eating birds threatens tropical forests [English]
Science Daily, 7 December 2016
Ants plant rainforests, one seed at a time [English], 14 April 2014
Ants help plant tomorrow’s rainforests [English]
Science Magazine, 21 March 2014
Biodiversity = More (and Better) Coffee [English]
The Scientist, 11 February 2014
Functional Fragments [English]
Conservation Magazine, 29 November 2011 
Überraschender Nutzen – Auch Regenwaldinseln erfüllen ökologische Funktionen [German]
Deutschlandfunk (D), 16 December 2011 
Nützlicher Flickenteppich [German]
Welt (D), 28 November 2011 
Selbst fragmentierter Wald behält seine ökologischen Funktionen [German]
Der Standard (A), 25 November 2011

Curriculum Vitae

Recent publications:

Ferger, S.W., Peters, M.K., Appelhans, T., Detsch, F., Hemp, A., Nauss, T., Otte, I., Böhning-Gaese, K. & Schleuning, M. (online early). Synergistic effects of climate and land use on avian beta-diversity. Diversity and Distributions, doi: 10.1111/ddi.12615.

Dalsgaard, B., Schleuning, M., Maruyama, P.K., Dehling, D.M., Sonne, J., Vizentin‐Bugoni, J., Zanata, T.B., Fjeldså, J., Böhning‐Gaese, K. & Rahbek, C. (online early). Opposed latitudinal patterns of network‐derived and dietary specialization in avian plant‐frugivore interaction systems. Ecography, online early, doi: 10.1111/ecog.02604. [highlighted on the Ecography blog]

Vollstädt, M.G.R., Ferger, S.W., Hemp, A., Howell, K.M., Töpfer, T., Böhning-Gaese, K. & Schleuning, M. (2017). Direct and indirect effects of climate, human disturbance and plant traits on avian functional diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 26, 963-972.

Donoso, I., Schleuning, M., García, D. & Fründ, J. (2017). Defaunation effects on plant recruitment depend on size matching and size trade-offs in seed-dispersal networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284, 20162664.

Bender, I.M.A., Kissling, W.D.K., Böhning-Gaese, K., Hensen, I., Kühn, I., Wiegand, T., Dehling, D.M. & Schleuning, M. (2017). Functionally specialised birds respond flexibly to seasonal changes in fruit availability. Journal of Animal Ecology, 86, 800-811.

Muñoz, M.C., Schaefer, H.M., Böhning-Gaese, K. & Schleuning, M. (2017). Importance of animal and plant traits for fruit removal and seedling recruitment in a tropical forest. Oikos, 126, 823-832.


mehr Publikationen


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’)