Research Area “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning”

This research area seeks to explain the consequences of biodiversity change for the functioning of ecosystems. The main objective of this research area is to explore the context dependency of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) relationships across spatial and temporal scales. iDiv researchers study the functional consequences of community assembly in response to different environmental drivers, and biotic interactions within and across trophic levels.

Research questions

How do biotic interactions drive BEF relationships?

Given that many important ecosystem functions are determined by  the interactions between organisms, a mechanistic understanding of BEF relationships requires the detailed analysis of biotic interactions and behaviour – within trophic levels (horizontal diversity) and between them  (vertical diversity).
Knowing how and why communities change in diversity and composition (Change) and in food web structure (Complexity) is key to understand BEF relationships. Often molecular tools are needed to unravel biotic interactions involving those between microorganisms (Molecular).

How does community assembly influence BEF relationships?

In real-world systems, diversity is not an independent driver, but an emergent property of community assembly processes and ecosystem dynamics. Developing the CAFE approach further using experiments and models is essential for the transfer of BEF research to the landscape scale.

While research area Change provides realistic scenarios for CAFE simulations and experiments, research area Complexity provides functional and demographic traits necessary to parameterise models.

How does the environmental and biotic context influence BEF relationships when scaling from experiments to landscapes?

To scale from experiments to land­scapes and to develop biodiversity-based manage­ment applica­tions, we need to under­stand the environ­mental and biotic context-dependency of BEF relation­ships. This requires new ap­proach­es combi­ning distributed net­works of observa­tories and experi­ments, mod­elling and remote sensing.
Transferring BEF to the scale of land-use decisions allows the development of targets for biodiversity futures and transformative change (Society). Change provides theory how biodiversity changes across scales. We support research area Change by driving the development of remote sensing-based detection of biodiversity.

Key publications

Barnes, A.D., …, Brose, U., …, Ebeling, A., Gauzens, B., Giling, D., Hines, J., …, Ristok, C., …, and Eisenhauer, N. (2020). Biodiversity enhances the multi-trophic control of herbivory. Science Advances 6, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6603

View media release: More plant diversity, less pesticides

Craven, D., M. T. van der Sande, C. Meyer, K. Gerstner, J. M. Bennett, D. P. Giling, J. Hines, Phillips, H.R.P., May, F., Bannar‐Martin, K.H., Chase, J.M. and Keil, P. (2020) A Cross-Scale Assessment of Productivity-Diversity Relationships. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29, DOI: 10.1111/geb.13165

Guerra, C.A., ..., Navarro, L.M., ..., Buscot, F., Cameron, E.K., Cesarz, S., Chatzinotas, A., …, Reitz, T., Rillig, M.C., ..., Weigelt, A., Eisenhauer, N. and Wall D.H. (2021). Tracking, targeting, and conserving soil biodiversity. A monitoring and indicator system can inform policy. Science 371, DOI: 10.1126/science.abd7926

View media release: Measuring the belowground world

Jochum, M., …, Roscher, C., van der Plas, F., …, Ebeling, A., Eisenhauer, N., …, Kattge, J., ..., Weigelt, A., ..., and Manning, P. (2020). The Results of Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning Experiments Are Realistic. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 20, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1280-9

View media release: Ecologists put biodiversity experiments to the test

Kattge, J., Boenisch, G., Díaz, S., …, > 700 authors, …, and Wirth, C. (2020). TRY plant trait database - enhanced coverage and open access. Global Change Biology 26, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14904

View media release: TRY database for plant traits has released more than a billion records


Leaders of the research area

Helge Bruelheide (MLU, iDiv)

Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, UL)

Markus Reichstein (MPI BGC, Univ. of Jena, iDiv)

Christian Wirth (UL, MPI BGC, iDiv)

Contributing iDiv members

  • Harald Auge (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Ulrich Brose (iDiv, Univ. of Jena),
  • François Buscot (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Jonathan Chase (iDiv, MLU),
  • Antonis Chatzinotas (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Walter Durka (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Stanley Harpole (UFZ, iDiv, MLU),
  • Andreas Huth (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Kirsten Küsel (Univ. of Jena, iDiv),
  • Miguel Mahecha (MPI-BGC, iDiv),
  • Henrique M. Pereira (iDiv, MLU),
  • Christiane Roscher (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Nadja Rüger (iDiv, UL),
  • Martin Schädler (UFZ, iDiv),
  • Michael Vohland (UL, iDiv),
  • Nicole van Dam (iDiv, Univ. of Jena),
  • Alexandra Weigelt (UL, iDiv),
  • Tesfaye Wubet (UFZ, iDiv)
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