Functional Biodiversity Research

Large-scale and long-term biodiversity exploratories for functional biodiversity research

Barbara Schmitt, Stefan Blaser, Eric Allan, Oliver Bossdorf, Daniel Prati, Markus Fischer
In the framework of an initiative to advance biodiversity research in Germany, we established three large-scale and long-term research sites for functional biodiversity research. The main of these Biodiversity Exploratories is to study (1) interrelationships between biodiversity at different organismic levels (from soil microbes to plants, insects, birds and mammals) and scales (genes, species, interactions, habitats), (2) the relationship between land use and biodiversity, and (3) between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The Exploratories are an open platform for biodiversity research in Germany; currently, there are over 150 scientists in 34 projects involved.
(funded by the German Research Foundation; in collaboration with the Biodiversity Exploratories consortium)


Mechanisms underlying plant community productivity, stability and assembly

Sebastian Keller, Markus Fischer
The Jena Experiment is a long-term experiment in which experimental grasslands of different species and functional group diversity have been created to study the interactions between plant diversity and ecosystem processes, with a special emphasis on element cycling and trophic interactions. The focus of our subproject is on the effect of plant diversity on the diversity and abundance of plant pathogenic fungi, and on the role of plant genetic diversity for ecosystem functioning.
(funded by SNF; in collaboration with Bernhard Schmid (University of Zurich), Alexandra Weigelt (University of Leipzig), and the DFG research group FOR1451)


FunDiv – Functional significance of forest biodiversity

Eric Allan, Markus Fischer
FunDiv is an EU project which looks at the functional importance of forest biodiversity. One key element of the project is a network of 300 forest plots, which cover a large gradient of tree species richness, across six European countries. Our subproject examines regional differentiation and local adaptation to climate in several dominant tree species at each of these six sites, and how potential climate change impacts are influenced by forest biodiversity.
(funded by EU FP7; in collaboration with 23 European partners)


Linking plant performance to plant origins and functional traits

Christine Heiniger, Markus Fischer
We ask the question to what extent origin and functional traits influence plant performance. To answer this question, we measure multiple performance traits in a set of 214 plant species in 10 botanical gardens in Switzerland, and we combine these data with expert knowledge and additional trait data from data bases.


Genetics of trees and shrubs in subtropical forest, and their relevance for fitness and the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship

Markus Fischer, Juliet Blum (in collaboration with Walter Durka, Stefan Michalski, Xueqin Zheng, Christoph Hahn, UFZ Halle)
Species diversity, genetic diversity of the compound species and ecosystem function may be mutually interrelated. This project addresses this issue using several approaches in experimental and natural plots of subtropical forest in the context of the BEF-China research unit. Our project addresses both the role of genetic variation as a determinant of plant performance and genetic variation as response variable that is affected by species diversity. In experimental forest plots of different diversity we test the hypothesis that plant performance (e.g. growth, survival, reproduction, pathogen resistance) is positively correlated to genetic variation in these traits and that this correlation becomes more pronounced with increasing species diversity, i.e. interspecific competition. Further we test whether different levels of species diversity exert different selection pressures on different provenances and seed families. Moreover, in natural forest plots we test the hypothesis that in natural communities species diversity is related to genetic diversity within component species due to the action of neutral processes like dispersal or density-dependent gene flow.