The Research Activity “Geobiodiversity and Climate” studies the interactions between climate, Earth surface processes and biodiversity on different time scales.
It further examines the impacts of climate and Earth surface processes on the evolutionary and ecological dynamics of species and communities. An important research topic are the effects of anthropogenic climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
The Research Activity integrates the Geobiodiversity research at Senckenberg and aims to understand the functional role of biodiversity in ecosystems. Core elements of research are the integration of empirical research and modelling (e.g., in dynamic vegetation models) and of approaches from geosciences and biosciences. This integrative approach enables us to learn from the geological past to better predict the future of biodiversity. The Research Activity runs two research infrastructures: the Joint Goethe University-Senckenberg BiK-F Stable Isotope Facility and the Senckenberg Data and Modelling Centre. The Senckenberg collections are used for measurements of functional species’ traits.
Selected research examples are the reconstruction of paleo-ecosystems and natural climate variability in key regions of the Earth (based on excavations, isotope analyses, dynamic vegetation models and integration of fossil and modern data sets); trait-based studies of biotic interactions and ecosystem functions in tropical mountains; the modeling of the effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and the feedbacks between climate change and ecosystems. This work is relevant for planning adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change and biodiversity loss.
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
– Tropical Andes
– Tropical and subtropical Africa
Nowak et al. 2019. Projecting consequences of global warming for the functional diversity of fleshy‐fruited plants and frugivorous birds along a tropical elevational gradient. Diversity & Distributions, https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12946
Sonne et al. 2020. Ecological mechanisms explaining interactions within plant–hummingbird networks: morphological matching increases towards lower latitudes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2873
Professor for Biogeography, Leader of Senckenberg 'Data and Modelling Centre', Head of Research Group 'Biogeography and Ecosystem Ecology', '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.