Biodiversity research

Biodiversity is under thread by land use, climate change and biological invasions. Currently, we particularly focus on land-use impacts on biodiversity and species composition of insect communities in central European grasslands and forests (see 'Biodiversity Exploratories'). We investigate different aspects of biodiversity, including heterogeneity of communities (beta-diversity) or variation in functional traits and species' responses to environmental conditions (trait diversity, response diversity). 

We investigate factors that influence the stability and plasticity of ecosystems in the presence of land use such as mowing, grazing or fertilization. Based on feeding experiments and stoichiometrical analyses of herbivorous grassland insects, we try to understand the ability to regulate the oversupply or lack of nutrients, and we relate this to each species' distribution and community composition. Responses of Auchenorrhyncha, Orthoptera and Heteroptera to land-use intensification are investigated on the community and single-species level.

--> Karsten Mody, Nico Blüthgen

Dung beetles are viewed as ‘ecosystem engineers’ and play a key role in decomposition processes. Besides their usage in biodiversity monitoring, they contribute to soil nutrient quality and removal of breeding grounds for pests. We focus on dung beetle community responses and ecosystem services along broad gradients of land use intensity in forests and grasslands.

--> Kevin Frank, Nico Blüthgen

Lepidoptera contain more than 160,000 described species and belong to the largest and best-explored arthropod groups. However, the main focus of studies on land-use intensification has been on diurnal butterflies, whereas more than 85 % of Lepidopteran species are moths. In this framework, we study Life-history traits and diversity of moths along quantified land-use gradients in grassland. We also investigate intraspecific variation in relation to host plant specificity and differences in development and metabolism with increasing temperature.

--> Nico Blüthgen

Urban green space is often dominated by low diversity plantings of non-native ornamental shrubs or amenity grasslands. Replacing these plantings by urban meadows consisting of native herb and grass species increases plant diversity and may also strongly change environmental conditions for plant-feeding arthropods and higher trophic levels. We investigate the effects of replacement of ornamental roadside shrubs by native flower meadows on arthropod diversity and arthropod functional groups. We compare arthropod communities from newly created meadow patches and from original shrubby vegetation, and we assess effects of patch size, patch age, mowing regimes and plant diversity on arthropod community composition.

--> Karsten Mody