All news https://www.idiv.de/ en All news https://www.idiv.de/typo3conf/ext/tt_news/ext_icon.gif https://www.idiv.de/ 18 16 TYPO3 - get.content.right http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100 Chimpanzees without borders https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1910.html A new large-scale study uncovers recent genetic connectivity between chimpanzee subspecies despite... A new large-scale study uncovers recent genetic connectivity between chimpanzee subspecies despite past isolation events

Based on a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) 

Chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies separated by geographic barriers like rivers. Previous studies attempting to understand chimpanzee population histories have drawn inconsistent pictures: some have shown clear separations between chimpanzee subspecies while others suggest a genetic gradient across the species as in humans. To resolve this dichotomy, a team of international researchers led by the Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) collected over 5000 faecal samples from 55 sites in 18 countries across the chimpanzee range over 8 years – the most complete sampling of the species to date. The analysis was published in Communications Biology.

Much like us, chimpanzees, occupy diverse habitats and exhibit extensive behavioural variation. Human genetic variation however changes along a gradient, with no races and some areas of local genetic adaptation. Previous studies attempting to understand chimpanzee population histories have been limited either by the poor geographic distribution of samples, samples of uncertain origin or different types of genetic markers – with correspondingly inconsistent results. The researchers' large-scale study should eliminate these uncertainties.

”This is by far the most complete sampling of the species to date, with a known location of origin for every sample, thus addressing the sampling limitations of previous studies," said Dr Mimi Arandjelovic from MPI-EVA, co-director of the PanAf and senior author of the study. “Collecting these samples was often a daunting task for our amazing field teams. The chimpanzees were almost all unhabituated to human presence, so it took a lot of patience, skill and luck to find chimpanzee dung at each of the sites.”

Jack Lester, a doctoral researcher at MPI-EVA and first author of the study, explained: “We used rapidly-evolving genetic markers that reflect the recent population history of species and, in combination with the dense sampling from across their range, we show that chimpanzee subspecies have been connected, or, more likely, reconnected, for extended periods during the most recent maximal expansion of African forests.”

Chimpanzee subspecies can exchange genetically

So, although chimpanzees were separated into different subspecies in their distant past, before the rise of recent anthropogenic disturbances, the proposed subspecies-specific geographic barriers were permeable to chimpanzee dispersal. Dr Paolo Gratton, co-author of the study and researcher at the Università di Roma “Tor Vergata” adds: “It is widely thought that chimpanzees persisted in forest refugia during glacial periods, which has likely been responsible for isolating groups of populations which we now recognize as subspecies. Our results from fast-evolving microsatellite DNA markers however indicate that genetic connectivity in the most recent millennia mainly mirrors geographic distance and local factors, masking the older subspecies subdivisions.”

Furthermore, “these results suggest that the great behavioural diversity observed in chimpanzees are therefore not due to local genetic adaptation but that they rely on behavioural flexibility, much like humans, to respond to changes in their environment,” noted Dr Hjalmar Kuehl, co-director of the PanAf and researcher at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

The team also observed signals of reductions in diversity at some sites that appeared to be associated with recent anthropogenic pressures. In fact, at some locations, PanAf teams visited no, or few, chimpanzees were detected despite recordings of their presence within the last decades. “Although not unforeseen, we were disheartened to already find the influence of human impacts at some field sites where genetic diversity was markedly lower than what we expected,” said Jack Lester.

These results highlight the importance of genetic connectivity for chimpanzees in their recent history. “Every effort should be made to re-establish and maintain dispersal corridors across their range, with perhaps special attention to trans-national protected areas,” noted Prof Christophe Boesch, co-director of the PanAf and director of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation at MPI-EVA. Chimpanzees are known to be adaptable to human disturbance and can survive in human-modified landscapes, however, habitat loss, zoonotic diseases, bushmeat and pet trades are all threats to chimpanzee survival. These results warn of future critical impacts on their genetic health and viability if habitat fragmentation and isolation continue unabated.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Jack D. Lester, Linda Vigilant, Paolo Gratton, Maureen S. McCarthy, Christopher D. Barratt, Paula Dieguez, Anthony Agbor, Paula Álvarez-Varona, Samuel Angedakin, Emmanuel Ayuk Ayimisin, Emma Bailey, Mattia Bessone, Gregory Brazzola, Rebecca Chancellor, Heather Cohen, Emmanuel Danquah, Tobias Deschner, Villard Ebot Egbe, Manasseh Eno-Nku, Annemarie Goedmakers, Anne-Céline Granjon, Josephine Head, Daniela Hedwig, R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Kathryn J. Jeffery, Sorrel Jones, Jessica Junker, Parag Kadam, Michael Kaiser, Ammie K. Kalan, Laura Kehoe, Ivonne Kienast, Kevin E. Langergraber, Juan Lapuente, Anne Laudisoit, Kevin Lee, Sergio Marrocoli, Vianet Mihindou, David Morgan, Geoffrey Muhanguzi, Emily Neil, Sonia Nicholl, Christopher Orbell, Lucy Jayne Ormsby, Liliana Pacheco, Alex Piel, Martha M. Robbins, Aaron Rundus, Crickette Sanz, Lilah Sciaky, Alhaji M. Siaka, Veronika Städele, Fiona Stewart, Nikki Tagg, Els Ton, Joost van Schijndel, Magloire Kambale Vyalengerera, Erin G. Wessling, Jacob Willie, Roman M. Wittig, Yisa Ginath Yuh, Kyle Yurkiw, Klaus Zuberbuehler, Christophe Boesch, Hjalmar S. Kühl & Mimi Arandjelovic (2021): Recent genetic connectivity and clinal variation in chimpanzees. Communications Biology, DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-01806-x

 

Press release by MPI-EVA: https://www.mpg.de/16538522/0303-evan-chimpanzees-without-borders-150495-x

 

Contact:

Jack Lester
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-262
Email: jack_lester@eva.mpg.de

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat TOP NEWS iDiv Members Media Release Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Species are our livelihoods https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1912.html Biodiversity doesn’t feature enough in large-scale assessments of ecosystem services Biodiversity doesn’t feature enough in large-scale assessments of ecosystem services

In future, assessments of ecosystems in terms of their contributions to people should take greater account of the importance of species diversity. This is what scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) are calling for in the scientific journal Ecosystem Services. Animal and plant species deliver a large share of natural services for human well-being but have been in continuous decline for decades. Large-scale assessments, however, only address some of these services, such as water filtration, carbon storage and erosion control. Ecosystem services that are directly linked to species, on the other hand, hardly play a role at all. The researchers point out that this wastes many opportunities for effective nature and species conservation.

Functioning ecosystems provide the basis for security, basic material needs, health, social interaction and individual liberty. This is how the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 described it, dividing ecosystem services into the following categories: The provisioning services; goods such as food, water, firewood and timber, the regulating services; pollination, water filtering function of the soil, flood and erosion protection, and the cultural services; recreation, places of inspiration, and education. Many of these services are indirectly and directly linked to the presence of species. For this reason, species conservation is often put forward as a measure for the conservation of vital natural services.

“However, most previous studies argue that areas important for ecosystem services do not necessarily correspond to those important for biodiversity conservation,” said senior author Prof Henrique Pereira from iDiv and MLU. “We were able to show that this is probably because these studies only look at a few ecosystem services, and species-linked services are rarely among them.”

In their new study, the researchers selected nine different species-linked ecosystem services for which data were available on the occurrence and distribution of the species providing them in Europe. These are wild food, medicinal plants, fodder, pest control, carcass removal, seed dispersal, wildlife watching, hunting, and existence value; this is the benefit we derive from knowing that rare and endangered species continue to exist. To find out which species provide these services, they searched databases for functional characteristics such as medicinal value, edibility, but also their importance for hunting and wildlife watching.
The researchers then created individual maps of how the providers of these services are distributed in Europe. They then did the same for nine typical biophysical ecosystem services that are not linked to species, such as agricultural production, livestock farming and carbon storage. They compared these maps in computer models and calculated where there is spatial overlap and how the different ecosystem services influence each other.

Ecosystem services depend more on species richness than previously expected

The results show that, especially on a larger spatial scale, biophysical and species-linked ecosystem services often occur simultaneously. This became more evident the more ecosystem services were considered. The regions where species conservation and ecosystem services play a role thus coincided more often than previously assumed. Negative correlations between the two approaches were found predominantly for agricultural production, which, among other things, limits regulating ecosystem services such as water purification and cultural services such as natural beauty.

“With our study, we show that there are strong connections between species diversity and ecosystem services,” said first author Dr Silvia Ceaușu, who conducted the study at iDiv and MLU. She recently joined the Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research at University College London. These connections need to be made more visible in assessments of nature’s contributions to human wellbeing in order to fully understand how to manage and protect these benefits to humans.” 

“We’re still lacking biodiversity data to truly map species-based ecosystem services at large scales,” said Henrique Pereira. “So we need more research on the question of how ecosystem services at the landscape and regional scale depend on the abundance and traits of the species present.” For Europe, the researchers are therefore currently establishing the EuropaBON project, which is intended to make this, and other such data available to stakeholders in the future.
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Ceaușu, S., Apaza-Quevedo, A., Schmid, M., Martín-López, B., Cortés-Avizanda, A., Maes, J., Brotons, L., Queiroz, C. & Pereira, H. M. (2021): Ecosystem service mapping needs to capture more effectively the biodiversity important for service supply, Ecosystem Services, 48, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101259

 

Contact:

Dr Silvia Ceaușu
formerly:
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
now:
Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research at University College London
Email: silvia.ceausu@mespom.eu

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Fri, 05 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Belowground biodiversity in motion https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1908.html Global change alters microbial life in soils - and thereby its ecological functions Global change alters microbial life in soils - and thereby its ecological functions

Based on a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

Global change is expected to increase the diversity of bacteria at the local level, while their composition will become more uniform at the global level. This is the finding of a team of researchers led by the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the University of Leipzig (UL) and the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (MiS). The researchers have – for the first time – holistically assessed how climate and land-use changes affect bacterial communities in soil. The study, published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, can help make reliable predictions about changes in the global distribution of these belowground communities.

Soil microorganisms play a critical role in the survival of life-sustaining ecosystems and, consequently, human well-being. Global assessments continue to provide strong evidence that humans are causing unprecedented biodiversity losses. However, existing information is strongly biased towards selected groups of vertebrates and plants, while much less is known about potential shifts in belowground communities.

Soil microbial communities are largely an unseen majority, even though, according to first author Dr Carlos Guerra (iDiv, MLU), “they control a wide range of ecosystem functions that have implications for both human well-being and the sustainability of our ecosystems.” The published results provide evidence that climate change has a stronger influence on soil microbial communities than land-use change like deforestation and agricultural expansion.

The scientists focused especially on bacteria and fungi, which are the most diverse groups of soil-dwelling organisms across the globe. They studied a comprehensive database of soil microbial communities across six continents, whilst incorporating temperature, precipitation and vegetation cover data. Established climate and land-use projection datasets were used to compute various temporal change scenarios, based on a projection period from 1950 to 2090. To understand this complex system with multiple interdependent variables, four structural equation models were developed for bacterial richness, community dissimilarity, phosphate transport genes and ecological clusters. These models are particularly useful for distinguishing between the direct and indirect effects of external environmental variables (vegetation type, temperature, precipitation, etc.) on the aforementioned biodiversity variables.

Bacterial richness versus homogenisation

The authors were able to show that local bacterial richness will increase in all scenarios of climate and land-use change considered. Although this increase will be followed by a generalised community homogenisation process affecting more than 85% of terrestrial ecosystems. Scientists also expect changes in the relative abundance of functional genes to accompany increases in bacterial richness. These could affect soil phosphorus uptake, which in turn could limit plant and microbial production. The results of the ecological cluster analysis suggest that certain bacteria and fungi known to include important human pathogens, major producers of antibiotic resistance genes, or potential fungal-transmitted plant pathogens will become more abundant.

While increases in local microbial diversity might seem positive at first glance, they hide strong reductions in community complexity in the majority of terrestrial systems, with implications for ecosystem functioning. Future ecosystems are therefore expected to have a greater number of bacterial lineage communities at the local scale, making several bacterial species groups potentially more abundant in soil communities under global change scenarios. Assuming the links between functionality and taxonomy remain constant through time, this suggests that similar bacterial groups with similar functional capabilities will live in soils across the globe, reducing specialisation and potentially the adaptation capacity of ecosystems to new environmental realities.

The published results are at odds with current global projections of aboveground biodiversity declines but do not necessarily provide a more positive view of nature’s future. Major changes in microbial diversity driven by climate and land-use change have significant implications for ecosystem functioning. “The results also help to fill an important gap identified in current global assessments and agreements,” says group leader Prof Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, UL). They also lay the groundwork for incorporating soil organisms into future assessments of ecosystem response to global change drivers. According to mathematician Dr Eliana Duarte (MiS), “the application of mathematical and statistical methods to the study of the soil microbiome will play an increasingly important role as more data on soils becomes available”.          

This manuscript was developed from discussions within the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG FZT118).

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

C. A. Guerra, M. Delgado‐Baquerizo, E. Duarte, O. Marigliano, C. Görgen, F. T. Maestre & N. Eisenhauer (2021): Global projections of the soil microbiome in the Anthropocene. Global Ecology and Biogeography, DOI: 10.1111/geb.13273

 

Contact:

Dr Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Dr Eliana Duarte
Otto-Von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg
Formerly Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (MiS)
Email: eliana.duarte@ovgu.de
Web: https://emduart2.github.io

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

Jana Gregor
Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
Press department
Email: presse@mis.mpg.de
Web: www.mis.mpg.de

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Wed, 24 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Plant responses to climate are lagged https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1904.html Climate drivers outside of the growing season may have stronger effects on plants than previously... Climate drivers outside of the growing season may have stronger effects on plants than previously assumed.

Leipzig. Plant responses to climate drivers such as temperature and precipitation may become visible only years after the actual climate event. This is a key result of new research led by the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) published in Global Change Biology. The results indicate that climate drivers may have different effects on the survivorship, growth and reproduction of plant species than suggested by earlier studies.

Two in five of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction. In the face of climate change, understanding why certain plant species are vulnerable to extinction while others prevail is more urgent than ever before. Previous studies linking climate and plant vital rates have found relatively modest effects, sometimes leading to the conclusion that other threats, such as land use change, may still be more important than climate drivers. However, these conclusions could result from wrong assumptions about which times of the year (which “time window”) climate drivers such as temperature and precipitation influence plant species. “Most researchers assume that plant populations respond to the climate within twelve months and only use this time window in their models to analyse plant responses,“ says first author Sanne Evers from iDiv and MLU.

Climate conditions during dormant seasons often neglected

For their study, the team of researchers led by iDiv, MLU and UFZ analysed 76 studies performed on 104 plant species that link climate drivers with demographic responses. They found that 85% of all studies considered 1-year time windows, and often focus on the growing season (e.g. spring and/or summer). However: “There are many ways in which climate during the dormant season, or climate that occurred few years in the past, can influence the survivorship, growth, and reproduction of plants. For example, species can grow substantially during the cold season, at least where the cold season temperature does not fall below 5° Celsius. In addition, it might take multiple years for plants to die after physiological damage from drought has occurred,” says Aldo Compagnoni from iDiv and MLU and senior author of the paper.

To investigate which combination of climate drivers and temporal window have the best predictive ability, the researchers used four exceptionally long-term data sets: the montane plants Helianthella quinquenervis and Frasera speciosa and the arid plants Cylindropuntia imbricata and Cryptantha flava. “For these plant species, 15 to 47 years of data was available. And even though they are all perennials, they come from very different habitats with clearly marked seasons,” Sanne Evers explains.

Climate stress may become visible only years later

The results were clear: In many cases, it can take several years for plants to respond to climate. ”Plant responses to climate drivers that are lagged and/or outside of the growing season are the rule rather than the exception,” says co-author Tiffany Knight, professor at MLU and UFZ and head of a research group at iDiv. “This could be explained by the physiological features of some plants: For instance, in alpine environments, it may take up to four years until leaves and flowers of plants such as F. speciosa reach maturity.” Accordingly, the effects of an extreme climate event may only become visible in the number of leaves and flowers four years after that event influenced the formation of these structures.

While this study focuses on examining the effects of past climate on plants, there are important implications for understanding how plants will be affected by future climate change. This study highlights that plant responses to climate are more complex than was previously appreciated. We need to prioritize experiments and observations of terrestrial ecosystems in order to create robust scenarios for the plant species that are critical to human well-being. 

Kati Kietzmann


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Sanne M. Evers, Tiffany M. Knight, David W. Inouye, Tom E. X. Miller, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Amy M. Iler, Aldo Compagnoni (2021). Lagged and dormant-season climate better predict plant vital rates than climate during the growing season. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15519

 

Contact:

Sanne Evers
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733283
Email: sanne.evers@idiv.de

 

Dr Aldo Compagnoni
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9739143
Email: aldo.compagnoni@idiv.de

 

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

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TOP NEWS iDiv Media Release Spatial Interaction Ecology Mon, 22 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Can species adapt to a hotter world? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1905.html Researchers show that species' ability to adapt to climate warming is not unlimited Researchers show that species' ability to adapt to climate warming is not unlimited

Based on a press release by Lancaster University, UK

Species evolve faster to adapt to the climate getting colder than to it getting hotter – and the rise in heat they can adapt to has limits. These are the main results of a study by an international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the University Rey Juan Carlos and University of Alcalá in Spain, involving researchers from Lancaster University and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The new study, published in Nature Communications, explores how evolution has prepared some species to withstand these temperatures and how fast different species evolve to changing temperatures.

Red honey ants endure temperatures above 50°C in the Australian desert, while some springtail species survives extreme cold of -30°C in the Antarctic. Physiological tolerance to heat and cold determines where on the planet an organism can survive yet we have limited understanding of how this tolerance evolves over time. This is an area of increasing interest as the climate heats up more quickly than ever before. The new research helps to fill this gap in our knowledge, showing that species evolve heat tolerance more slowly than cold tolerance. It also suggests that heat tolerance cannot keep evolving indefinitely, most likely because there are fundamental limits to how far membranes and proteins can withstand heat.

”It took me more than a year to collect data for more than 2000 diverse species, including multicellular algae, marine invertebrates, mammals, birds and plants. I had to synthesize scientific works published across multiple decades that used very diverse methodologies,“ said lead author Dr Joanne Bennett, who conducted the study as postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU, an who now is affiliated with the University of Canberra, Australia. The outcome was an unprecedented database on the ability of different species to tolerate heat extremes (GlobTherm database).

On this basis the authors tested whether past climate ”legacies“, current climatic extremes or physiological boundaries to evolution could best explain the enormous variation in thermal tolerance across species.
The study involved a group of renowned ecologists, physiologists and evolutionary biologists, including Dr Sally Keith, an ecologist from Lancaster University. They were gathered by Prof M.Á. Olalla-Tárraga from the University Rey Juan Carlos, Spain, and Prof I. Morales-Castilla from the University of Alcalá, Spain.

“Our work shows that the ability to adapt to cold has evolved up to twice as fast as the ability to adapt to heat,” comments Olalla-Tárraga. “The evolution of cold tolerance was fastest in endotherms [warm blooded species that can generate their own heat], perhaps reflecting their more recent evolution and expansion into cold climates,” adds Morales-Castilla.

Despite this varied evolutionary history, species appear best adapted to the extreme temperatures that they experience today, rather than to the temperatures that prevailed at the time, they first evolved. However, the authors also detected evolutionary “attractors”, which suggest there is an upper limit to how far physiological processes that increase heat tolerance can evolve.

“These attractors suggest that, although species appear to have adapted so far to warming climates, the process cannot continue indefinitely. The implication for species survival under ongoing climate change is of big concern if Earth’s temperatures exceed what appears to be a fundamental physiological boundary,” said Dr Sally Keith from Lancaster University.

This research was partly supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sWEEP. iDiv's synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where 10 to 20 national, international scientists and iDiv researchers work together on scientific issues.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Bennett, J.M., Sunday, J., Calosi, P., Villalobos, F., Martínez, B., Molina-Venegas, R., Araújo, M. B., Algar, A. C., Clusella-Trullas, S., Hawkins, B. A., Keith, S. A., Kühn, I., Rahbek, C., Rodríguez, L., Singer, A., Morales-Castilla, I. &  Olalla-Tárraga, M. A. (2021): The evolution of critical thermal limits of life on Earth. Nature Communication 12, 1198. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21263-8

 

Contact:

Dr Joanne M. Bennett
Formerly
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Now
University of Canberra, Australia
Email: Joanne.Bennett@canberra.edu.au

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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sDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Mon, 22 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Complex river ecosystems protect freshwater fish from species loss https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1902.html Report by Dr Stefano Larsen, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy Trento/Leipzig/Seattle. The...

Report by Dr Stefano Larsen, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy

Trento/Leipzig/Seattle. The conservation and restoration of highly branched river courses can help to curb the extinction of fish species. This is the result of an international working group led by Edmund Mach Foundation and with participation of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU), supported by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv. The researchers found that temporal synchrony in the abundance of freshwater fish populations can be predicted directly from the branching complexity and connectivity of river networks. Synchronous fluctuations in the size of different populations of a species at different locations in a river significantly increase the probability of extinction. As species are lost from freshwaters faster than in any other ecosystems, knowledge of fundamental patterns in their spatial and temporal dynamics can inform conservation strategies both now and in the future. The study was recently published in Ecology Letters.

In order to reveal the causes, dynamics and consequences of synchrony in population fluctuations, an international working group of scientists from eleven Countries, gathered in Leipzig to collaborate and leverage the most comprehensive dataset on long-term stream fish time-series. River ecosystems are well recognised as being distinct from most other spatially structured habitats, because organismal movement is constrained by the dendritic network. This poses unique challenges that the working group tackled by combining simulation models and geo-statistical approaches.

Theoretical predictions of how fish population synchrony decays with distance across the river basin were derived from a metacommunity model reproducing the geometry of river networks. “The challenge was to tailor our model to simulate dispersal within a dendritic network while also taking into account the directionality of water flow”, says Dr Remo Ryser. The postdoctoral researcher, affiliated to iDiv and FSU, developed the model together with Dr Claire Jaquet from the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) and Prof Ulrich Brose, head of the research group Theory in Biodiversity Science at iDiv and FSU.

The team then compared theoretical expectations with the empirical data, including more than 34.000 pairs of fish populations representing 48 fish species across Europe. Lead author of the study Dr Stefano Larsen from the Edmund Mach Foundation says: “I was delighted to see how closely the empirical spatial patterns in population synchrony matched our theoretical expectations.”

Results indicate that synchrony is higher between fish populations connected by direct water flow, and decays faster with distance along the straight-line “as the crow flies” than the watercourse “as the fish swims” dimension. Moreover, as expected from network theory, synchrony decays faster with distance in the marginal headwaters compared to the more connected mainstem populations of the same river basin.

“Our work reveals that river network geometry and the direction of water flow are fundamental drivers of spatial patterns in fish population synchrony,” explains Julian Olden, professor of freshwater ecology at the University of Washington who – together with professor Lise Comte from Illinois State University – led the interdisciplinary working group. According to both empirical and theoretical findings, this study shows that temporal synchrony in the abundance of fish populations can be buffered as a direct consequence of network branching complexity.

”The challenge of studying the dynamics of populations in complex habitats such as river networks also offers great opportunities. Our study sheds light on the geography of population synchrony allowing the prediction of key patterns even in the absence of empirical populations time series,” Stefano Larsen further explains.
“These findings have implications for the persistence and management of species in river networks that support high biodiversity, but are among the most threatened ecosystems globally.”

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118). It is a product of the sDiv working group sYNGEO. iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv supports working group meetings where international scientists work together on scientific issues.

Stefano Larsen


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
 
Larsen, S., Comte, L., Filipe, A.F., Fortin, M-J, Jaquet, C., Ryser, R., Tedesco, P.A., Brose, U., Erős, T., Giam, X., Irving, K., Ruh,i A., Sharma, S., & Olden, J.D. (2021): The geography of metapopulation synchrony in dendritic river networks, Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.13699

 

Contact:

Dr Stefano Larsen
Research and Innovation Centre
Fondazione Edmund Mach
Email: stefano.larsen@fmach.it

 

Remo Ryser
Theory in Biodiversity Science research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Email: remo.ryser@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/561.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Theory in Biodiversity Science sDiv TOP NEWS iDiv Members Mon, 15 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Why biological diversity is important for our health https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1900.html Biodiversity contributes to human health via four domains of pathways – both beneficial and harmful Biodiversity contributes to human health via four domains of pathways – both beneficial and harmful

Report by first author Dr Melissa Marselle, former post-doctoral researcher at UFZ/iDiv, and senior author Prof Aletta Bonn, head of ecosystem services lab at UFZ/iDiv/FSU.

Leipzig. Biodiversity has a major impact on human well-being - in four different ways: by reducing harm, restoring capacities, building capacities and causing harm. This is the result of a team of 26 international experts from various disciplines, led by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), as well as Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). The study was recently published in the journal Environment International.

We all know that biodiversity is essential for our health and wellbeing. But why and how is biodiversity important for our health? What are the different beneficial and harmful effects of biodiversity on health? Researchers identified four different pathways how biodiversity affects human health, both positively and negatively, by (i) reducing harm (e.g. provision of medicines, decreasing exposure to air and noise pollution); (ii) restoring capacities (e.g. attention restoration, stress reduction); (iii) building capacities (e.g. promoting physical activity, transcendent experiences); and (iv) causing harm (e.g. dangerous wildlife, infectious diseases, allergens).

Biodiversity crucially contributes to human health by reducing harm. It provides us with medicines, food, as well as climate and water regulation, biodiversity protects us from diseases and enhances health. Biodiversity can also foster human health and wellbeing by reducing harm from environmental stressors, such as air and noise pollution, or by reducing exposure to extreme heat.

Biodiversity also contributes to our mental health by restoring our capacities to deal with the demands of everyday life. Everyday life can stretch our ability to handle stress, focus our attention and solve problems, which puts us at risk of being stressed and mentally ill. Biodiverse environments can help us restore these depleted capacities. Studies have shown that greater plant species richness and bird abundances can reduce stress. Biodiversity may also help us restore the capacity to concentrate or focus our attention.

In addition, biodiversity also fosters human health by building our capacities for meeting everyday demands. For example, people may be more likely to take exercise in a biodiverse environment. Biodiverse environments may also facilitate transcendent experiences – such as experiencing awe and wonder or reflecting on one’s life goals. These transcendent experiences are important contributors to health and wellbeing. Viewing and listening to wildlife can also contribute to a sense of place attachment and place identity.

Biodiversity can, however, also affect human health by causing harm. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the negative impacts biodiversity can have on human health. Exposure to infectious zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, Ebola or Malaria, transmitted through animals can form significant health risks. Unsustainable management of biodiversity (e.g. through habitat loss or wildlife trade) can increase the risk of interactions with animals that carry these infectious diseases. Allergies and animal attacks are other examples of how contact with biodiversity may also be harmful to human health.  

Our findings further the understanding of the specific pathways of how biodiversity is important for our health. We hope this can underpin the urgency of why we need to protect nature for our own health and well-being. 

The study, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, forms the synthesis result of a 3-day symposium in September 2019 with an international panel of 26 experts from different disciplines, including biology, biomedical sciences, ecology, environmental epidemiology, environmental psychology, geography, medicine, modern literature, public health, and statistics, as well as experts from conservation agencies and health authorities. 

By synthesizing the evidence linking biodiversity to human health with interdisciplinary colleagues from health sciences, psychology and natural sciences as well as experts form policy and practice we could develop a holistic, conceptual biodiversity – health framework. Understanding these causal relationships will provide important pointers for future research as well as for practical implementations in urban planning and developing public health policies for investment into biodiversity as our life-support system.
Melissa Marselle

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Marselle, M.R., Hartig, T., Cox, D.T.C., de Bell, S., Knapp, S., Lindley, S., Triguero-Mas, M., Böhning-Gaese, K., Braubach, M., Cook, P.A., de Vries, S., Heintz-Buschart, A., Hofmann, M., Irvine, K.N., Kabisch, N., Kolek, F., Kraemer, R., Markevych, I., Martens, D., Müller, R., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Potts, J.M., Stadler, J., Walton, S., Warber, S.L. & Bonn, A. (2021) Pathways linking biodiversity to human health: A conceptual framework. Environment International, 150, 106420. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106420

 

Contact:

Dr Melissa Marselle
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Now: Institute for Psychological Sciences
De Montfort University Leicester, UK
United Kingdom
Phone: +49 341 9733151
Email: melissa.marselle@dmu.ac.uk
Web: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/academic-staff/health-and-life-sciences/melissa-marselle/melissa-marselle.aspx

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services iDiv Members Tue, 09 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Autumn and spring are closely linked https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1897.html Biologists study autumn phenology of herbaceous plants Biologists study autumn phenology of herbaceous plants

Based on a media release by Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena

The fact that plants are beginning to flower earlier and earlier as a result of climate change was reported some time ago by scientists in Jena, among others. But how do the climatic changes actually affect the other end of the growing season? To find answers to this question, biologists Dr Solveig Franziska Bucher of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Prof Christine Roemermann of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have intensively studied the so-called leaf senescence, i.e. the ageing process of plants, which can be observed, for example, through autumnal colouring or the shedding of leaves. They discovered that leaf senescence begins earlier at lower temperatures than at higher temperatures. The start of this process can differ from species to species, but the colder the environment, the faster it occurs. The study was published in the Journal of Ecology.

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

S. F. Bucher and C. Römermann (2021): The timing of leaf senescence relates to flowering phenology and functional traits in 17 herbaceous species along elevational gradients, Journal of Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13577

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Tue, 26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Avoid repeating old mistakes https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1898.html Researchers propose necessary corrections in global biodiversity policy Researchers propose necessary corrections in global biodiversity policy

Leipzig/Halle. In the future, global goals for biodiversity must apply to all member states of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also at national level. This is one of four recommendations for improving the global strategy for biodiversity made by a team of researchers led by the Nanjing Institute for Environmental Research in China, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and NatureServe. The global biodiversity strategy is currently being renegotiated under the auspices of the CBD. In addition, funding, knowledge base and methods for measuring the success of nature conservation should be improved. In the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the researchers analyse why the global goals for biodiversity have been largely missed so far and present concrete policy options.

Since the founding of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, member states have regularly agreed on global strategies to bring the increasingly rapid loss of biodiversity to a halt. In 2002, the heads of state adopted the so-called 2010 biodiversity targets. Eight years later, little progress had been made and 20 new, even more ambitious goals were set for the next ten years. Last year, it became clear that this target had been missed, too. The loss of biodiversity continues unabated.

This year, new targets are being negotiated again - this time for 2030. The decisions are to be made at the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Kunming, China. To ensure that the mistakes from previous years will not be repeated, Chinese researchers led by Prof Haigen Xu from the Nanjing Institute for Environmental Research in cooperation with Prof Henrique Pereira (iDiv, MLU) have presented an analysis of the causes of this failure, focusing primarily on implementation in the individual member states.

Their conclusion: the commitments at UN level were all too seldom transposed into national law.  Four of the 20 so-called Aichi Targets are not reflected in any of the implementation plans (NBSAPs) submitted by the governments, including the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies. The other targets were formulated strictly enough to meet the requirements of the CBD decisions in only 22 percent of the NBSAPs. In addition, the analysis revealed insufficient financial resources and major gaps in knowledge on how to record and effectively combat biodiversity loss. Implementation of the promised goals in member states was insufficiently monitored, as effective indicators and evaluation mechanisms were lacking in some cases.

“While the CBD has now presented a first post-2020 draft that contains many improvements compared to the last decade’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity,” says ecologist and last author Pereira, “the main problems remain: governments are not required to present a clear roadmap on how they will achieve and monitor the targets adopted under the CBD in their own countries.”

The authors suggest that the CBD targets should be formulated in such a way that they can be transposed into national law as a mandatory minimum requirement. Similar to the Paris Climate Agreement or the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the CBD targets should be legally binding. Financial resources to promote biodiversity should be significantly increased and new instruments such as payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity-related taxes should be introduced. In addition, interdisciplinary research on the status, trends and drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide should be strengthened and appropriately equipped in order to develop the necessary responses. Further, the CBD should establish a mechanism to verify the compliance of member states with their targets and, if necessary, hold them accountable.

“The impacts of biodiversity loss on human well-being have never been clearer. Awareness of failures of past efforts to effectively respond to the biodiversity crisis can inform future actions,” said Mike Gill, Director of Biodiversity Indicators Program at NatureServe co-author of the new study. “Our findings offer some realistic and tangible solutions that can realise a more sustainable and prosperous future.”

At iDiv, Pereira and several other colleagues are actively contributing to biodiversity-related policy processes at various levels, for example, within the framework of the United Nations in the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and the CBD, at EU level in the negotiations of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, as well as in national, regional and local contexts. These activities are supported by the research centre's good network of collaborators from different disciplines around the world.

Pereira is pleased about this collaboration with his Chinese co-authors as important players in nature conservation from one of the world’s most influential nations. “It’s inspiring to co-author such an ambitious proposal with colleagues from the host nation of COP15, where the final decisions will be made.”
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Haigen Xu, Yun Cao, Dandan Yu, Mingchang Cao, Yuxiao He, Michael Gill & Henrique M. Pereira (2021): Ensuring effective implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity targets, Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01375-y

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Biodiversity Conservation Tue, 26 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Street trees close to the home may reduce the risk of depression https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1893.html Researchers show positive effect of urban nature on mental health Researchers show positive effect of urban nature on mental health

Leipzig. Daily contact with trees in the street may significantly reduce the risk of depression and the need for antidepressants. This is the result of a study by researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU), recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. Street tree planting in residential areas of cities can serve as a nature-based solution to reduce the risk of depression with added benefits of also addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. This should be taken into account by urban planners, health professionals, and conservationists.

Depression, especially in urban areas, is on the rise, now more than ever. Mental health outcomes are influenced by, among other things, the type of environment where one lives. Former studies show that urban greenspace has a positive benefit on people experiencing mental ill health, but most of these studies used self-reported measures, which makes it difficult to compare the results and generalise conclusions on the effects of urban greenspace on mental health.

An interdisciplinary research team of UFZ, iDiv, the UL, and FSU addressed this issue by choosing an objective health indicator: prescriptions of antidepressants. To find out whether a specific type of ‘everyday’ green space – street trees dotting the neighbourhood sidewalks – could positively influence mental health, they focused on the questions, how the number and type of street trees and their proximity close to home correlated to the number of antidepressants prescribed.

The researchers analysed data from almost 10,000 Leipzig inhabitants, a major city  in Germany, who took part in the LIFE-Adult health study running at the University of Leipzig Medical Faculty. Combining that with data on the number and species type of street trees throughout the city of Leipzig, the researchers were able to identify the association between antidepressants prescriptions and the number of street trees at different distances from people’s homes. Results were controlled for other factors known to be associated with depression, such as employment, gender, age, and body weight.

Street trees near the home may reduce the risk to suffer from depression

More trees immediately around the home (less than 100 meters) was associated with a reduced risk of being prescribed antidepressant medication. This association was especially strong for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. As these social groups are at the greatest risk for being prescribed antidepressants in Germany, street trees in cities can thereby serve as a nature-based solution for good mental health, the researchers write. At the same time, street trees may also help reduce the ‘gap’ in health inequality between economically different social groups. No association of tree types, however, and depression could be shown in this study.

“Our finding suggests that street trees – a small scale, publicly accessible form of urban greenspace – can help close the gap in health inequalities between economically different social groups,” says lead author of the study Dr Melissa Marselle. “This is good news because street trees are relatively easy to achieve and their number can be increased without much planning effort.” As an environmental psychologist, she conducted the research at UFZ and iDiv and is now based at the De Montford University of Leicester, UK. Marselle hopes that the research “should prompt local councils to plant street trees to urban areas as a way to improve mental health and reduce social inequalities. Street trees should be planted equally in residential areas to ensure those who are socially disadvantaged have equal access to receive its health benefits.” 

“Importantly, most planning guidance for urban greenspace is often based on purposeful visits for recreation”, adds Dr Diana Bowler (iDiv, FSU, UFZ), data analyst in the team. “Our study shows that everyday nature close to home – the biodiversity you see out of the window or when walking or driving to work, school or shopping – is important for mental health.” ”This finding is especially relevant now in times of the COVID-19 lock-downs,“ Bowler adds.

Urban tree planting can help to meet nature protection goals and social equality

“This scientific contribution can be a foundation for city planners to save and, possibly, improve the life quality for inhabitants, in particular, in densely populated areas and in central city areas,” adds Prof Toralf Kirsten from Leipzig University. “Therefore, this aspect should be taken into account when city areas are recreated and planned. A healthy life of all living being is key.”

And it’s not only human health which could benefit. “We propose that adding street trees in residential urban areas is a nature-based solution that may not only promote mental health, but can also contribute to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation,” says senior author Prof Aletta Bonn, who leads the department of ecosystem services at UFZ, iDiv and FSU. “To create these synergy effects, you don't even need large-scale expensive parks: more trees along the streets will do the trick. And street trees are a relatively inexpensive nature-based solution for climate and health promotion.”
Melissa Marselle

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Melissa R. Marselle, Diana Bowler, Jan Watzema, David Eichenberg, Toralf Kirsten & Aletta Bonn (2020): Urban street tree biodiversity and antidepressant prescriptions, Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-79924-5

 

Contact:

Dr Melissa Marselle
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Now: Institute for Psychological Sciences
De Montfort University Leicester, UK
United Kingdom
Phone: +49 341 9733151
Email: melissa.marselle@dmu.ac.uk
Web: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/academic-staff/health-and-life-sciences/melissa-marselle/melissa-marselle.aspx

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release iDiv Members Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Mon, 25 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Measuring the belowground world https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1891.html Researchers call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity and functions in international... Researchers call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity and functions in international conservation strategies

Leipzig/Halle/Fort Collins. A quarter of all known species live in the soil. Life above ground depends on the soil and its countless inhabitants. Yet, global strategies to protect biodiversity have so far paid little attention to this habitat. In the journal Science, an international team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Leipzig University (UL) and Colorado State University calls for greater consideration of soils in the renegotiation of international biodiversity strategies. Their relevance must be recognised far beyond agriculture. In order to make the status and performance of soils more visible, the researchers explain their plan for systematic recording based on common global standards.

If you asked people which group of animals is the most abundant on earth, hardly anyone would know the right answer. Ants? Fish? No, and not humans either. The answer is nematodes, also known as roundworms. Four out of five animals on earth belong to this group, and the reason hardly anyone is aware of the fact is that they live underground, invisible to us. Together with thousands of other soil organisms, they quietly, discreetly and constantly perform enormously important services for the world above them.

The soil is one of the most species-rich habitats in existence. Living under one square meter of healthy soil you can find up to 1.5 kilograms of organisms: among others, roundworms, earthworms, springtails, mites and insect larvae. There is also a multitude of microorganisms including bacteria, protists and fungi. They eat and transform living and dead animal and plant material into nutrients which become the basis for growth and new life. Without soil organisms, no plants would be able to grow and no humans could live.

It is therefore all the more astonishing that soils have so far hardly featured in international strategies for protecting biodiversity. The authors of the new article in Science see this as a big problem: “If we do not protect soils for the next generations, aboveground biodiversity and food production cannot be guaranteed either”. Their appeal goes out to the 196 nations who are currently negotiating a new strategy to protect biodiversity within the framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Healthy soils are becoming increasingly rare. They suffer the burden of intensive cultivation with heavy machinery, fertilisers and pesticides, are compacted, built over or are lost due to wind and water erosion. Global warming is putting them under additional pressure. According to the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, around 24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost worldwide every year. As a result, the soils’ wide variety of services such as water purification and protection against plant diseases gradually decline. In addition, soils are the most important carbon reservoir on earth and therefore help slow global climate warming.

Call for greater consideration of soil biodiversity in global biodiversity protection strategies

According to the researchers, these services are given far too little attention in the political debate. “Up to now, soil conservation has been mostly reduced to the impacts related to soil erosion and its importance for agriculture,” said first author Dr Carlos Guerra (iDiv, MLU). “It's about time that soil conservation policies consider the protection of soil organisms and ecosystem functions more than just for food production and other productive systems. Soil biodiversity monitoring and conservation can support the achievement and tracking of many sustainability goals, targeting areas such as climate, food and biodiversity protection.”

“Protection measures have so far mainly focused on life above ground, for example in the designation of protected areas”, said senior author Dr Diana Wall from Colorado State University. However, since these do not necessarily benefit underground biodiversity, the specific needs of the biotic communities in the soil have to be taken into account.

Establishing global monitoring network Soil BON 

In order to be able to decide which regions of the world are particularly in need of protection, and which protective measures are appropriate, sufficient information must be available on the status and trends of biodiversity in soils. Since this has not been the case so far, the researchers launched the Soil BON monitoring network. “We want to move biodiversity in soils into the focus of conservation efforts. To do this, we must provide policymakers with the necessary information to support decision-making,“ said senior author Prof Nico Eisenhauer, research group leader at iDiv and Leipzig University. “Soil BON will produce and support the production of the relevant data to achieve this goal.”

The purpose of Soil BON is to help gather equivalent soil data, comprehensively and over extended periods of time. What is required is an internationally recognised standard which sets out what is to be recorded and how. The researchers propose a holistic system for this: the so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). EBVs are key parameters for measuring biodiversity. The concept was developed by, among others, iDiv and includes criteria such as soil respiration, nutrient turnover and genetic diversity. Indicators are derived from the EBVs which then serve as a basis for soil status evaluation and subsequent decisions regarding the level and type of protection necessary for the soils.

According to the researchers, their proposed monitoring and indicator system will enable the worldwide condition of soils and their capacity to function to be recorded efficiently and monitored long term. They emphasise that it also serves as an important early warning system; with its help, it will be possible to identify, at an early stage, whether existing nature conservation goals can be achieved with current measures.

This research was, among others, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Carlos A. Guerra, Richard D. Bardgett, Lucrezia Caon, Thomas W. Crowther, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Luca Montanarella, Laetitia M. Navarro, Alberto Orgiazzi, Brajesh K. Singh, Leho Tedersoo, Ronald Vargas-Rojas, Maria J. I. Briones, François Buscot, Erin K. Cameron, Simone Cesarz, Antonis Chatzinotas, Don A. Cowan, Ika Djukic, Johan van der Hoogen, Anika Lehmann, Fernando T. Maestre, César Marín, Thomas Reitz, Matthias C. Rillig, Linnea C. Smith, Franciska T. de Vries, Alexandra Weigelt, Diana H. Wall & Nico Eisenhauer (2020): Tracking, targeting, and conserving soil biodiversity - A monitoring and indicator system can inform policy, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abd7926

 

Video of the authors explaining facts of the publication

 

Contact:

Dr Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Prof Diana Wall
Colorado State University
Phone: +1 970215-3888
Email: Diana.Wall@colostate.edu
Web: https://walllab.colostate.edu/people/dr-diana-h-wall/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology GEO BON TOP NEWS iDiv Members Thu, 14 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
"The Global Biodiversity Agenda and the European Biodiversity Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges for Central Germany" https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1890.html iDiv-Forum 2021 (video conference), Monday, 11 January, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. iDiv-Forum 2021 (video conference), Monday, 11 January, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

With the Ministers of the Environment of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony, Prof. Dr. Claudia Dalbert, Anja Siegesmund and Wolfram Günther, as well as the President of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel and several iDiv scientists.

Programme (in German)

 

Contact:

Dr Andrea Perino
Science-Policy Coordination
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733184
Email: andrea.perino@idiv.de

 

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TOP NEWS iDiv Mon, 04 Jan 2021 00:00:00 +0100
Plant diversity in Germany on the decline https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1873.html Most comprehensive evaluation of the occurrence of vascular plants in Germany to date Most comprehensive evaluation of the occurrence of vascular plants in Germany to date

Bonn/Halle/Jena/Leipzig. Germany's plant diversity is on the decline: over the last 60 years, decreases have been observed across Germany in over 70 percent of the more than 2000 species examined. The species dropped by an average of 15 percent. These are the findings of the most comprehensive analysis of plant data from Germany ever conducted, recently published in Global Change Biology. 29 million pieces of data on the distribution of vascular plants were taken into account in the analyses carried out within the framework of the "sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany" project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The study involved researchers from iDiv, the universities of Jena, Halle and Rostock, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with the close involvement of the regional nature conservation agencies from all 16 federal states.

In an area covering the whole of Germany – in every grid field of approximately 5 by 5 kilometres – the decline in species diversity averages around two percent per decade. Especially vulnerable are the archaeophytes; species brought to Germany by humans before the discovery of America. Among others, these include a large proportion of accompanying field flora, such as the corn marigold and the large Venus’s looking glass, but also species such as the narrow-leaved rattle and the perennial goosefoot. On the other hand, many neophytes – those species that reached Germany after 1492, were also able to spread, such as the Himalayan balsam or the narrow-leaved ragwort. The results of this study make it clear that even this increase could not compensate for the loss in the number of species per unit of area.

Study shows gradual biodiversity decline in Germany

For this study, the necessarily large and heterogeneous data sets were brought together, for the first time in Germany, and reliably statistically evaluated. Distribution data from 2136 of the over 4300 plant species established in Germany were included in the calculations. Species with very low reporting frequencies were not included. The foundation for this was the FlorKart database, in which the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has collated data on the distribution of flora in Germany. This data is predominantly the result of intensive mapping work by volunteers; an endeavour which is indispensable for nature conservation. The data was supplemented by further data sets from universities and other scientific institutions, but also by information on the presence of plants from private individuals. Information gaps were filled by calculating the probability of plant occurrence.

BfN President Prof Dr Beate Jessel concludes: “This clearly shows, once again, that we have to rethink our approach to nature and landscape; after all, the population declines proven by the study extend over the whole of Germany. This leaves no doubt; we need a broad-based approach to agriculture and forestry, which together occupy 80 percent of the area of Germany. This demonstrates that there’s an urgent need for more nature-compatible forms of land use.”
 
Plant species brought in by humans (neophytes) are gaining ground

“The degree of clarity in these results really surprised us. They paint a very dismal picture of the state of plant diversity in Germany,” says first author Dr David Eichenberg of iDiv. “This study has confirmed that the declines are not limited to already rare or particularly endangered species, but that a gradual reduction of biodiversity in the majority of plant species in Germany has obviously been happening for a long time.” 

The authors consider it likely that the observed decline in plant diversity has a major impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Due to the often very complex relationships between, for example, food webs and the cascade effect, such losses can have very serious consequences. It is evident that the intricate interrelationships between insects are affected, leading to decreases in both insect diversity and abundance. 

However, the study also shows that data availability must continue to be improved in order to identify even subtle biodiversity losses as early as possible. In order to achieve this, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation is currently setting out the basis for monitoring semi-frequent plant species in Germany. In contrast to rare species, where populations and occurrence are often well surveyed, with current recording methods, declines in semi-frequent and common species are only noticed late, or not at all. 

This study was funded by, among others, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”. sMon is an iDiv synthesis project with the aim of bringing together exemplary data sets on a variety of taxa and habitats in order to explore the possibilities for, and limitations of the analysis of changes in biodiversity. Based on this, prospects for future monitoring programmes in Germany are to be determined. Its integrative aspect is unique; bringing together government representatives from all federal states, scientists and members of various professional associations in one project.

 

Original publication 
(Scientists with iDiv-Affiliation bold)
Eichenberg, D., Bowler, D.E., Bonn, A., Bruelheide, H., Grescho, V., Harter, D., Jandt, U., May, R., Winter, M., Jansen F. (2020): Widespread decline in Central European plant diversity across six decades. Global Change Biology,  DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15447

 

Contact:

Dr David Eichenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Email: david.eichenberg@idiv.de

 

Prof Florian Jansen
University of Rostock
Email: florian.jansen@uni-rostock.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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iDiv Members sDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Mon, 14 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Leipzig biodiversity researcher receives 2021 Leibniz Prize https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1882.html Most important German research award Most important German research award

Leipzig. Today, the Joint Committee of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) awarded the 2021 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize to four female and six male researchers. One of them is Nico Eisenhauer, research group head at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Professor at Leipzig University since 2014 . The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each.

“The Leibniz Prize for Prof. Nico Eisenhauer honours his outstanding work on the effects of global change on biodiversity and ecosystem functions,” reads the DFG’s justification. At the age of 40, this year's youngest prizewinner is “already one of the leading scientists in his field”. The jury found that Eisenhauer’s research has yielded “significant advances in ecological theory and a fundamental understanding of the functional significance of biodiversity”. 

In 2014, Eisenhauer already received the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize and became professor at Leipzig University – in a joint appointment with iDiv. He is the Speaker of the Jena Experiment, one of the world’s oldest and best-known biodiversity experiments. In 2016, he was awarded a prestigious Starting Grant by the European Research Council (ERC).

Eisenhauer shared his initial thoughts on the news this afternoon: “I can hardly believe it, this is amazing! I am very happy for my fantastic team, which I can now continue to employ and support. We want to further advance functional biodiversity research, including in our MyDiv experiment in Bad Lauchstädt. It is important to focus more on research into soil biodiversity.”

“An international star”

Professor Beate Schücking, Rector of Leipzig University, commented on the news: “Nico Eisenhauer is one of the best researchers Leipzig University has, one who has already made outstanding achievements at a young age. Leipzig is shaped by his research interests in how environmental and climate change affect biodiversity. I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart and I share his delight.”

Professor Christian Wirth, iDiv Speaker and head of the Special Botany and Functional Biodiversity department at Leipzig University, said: “I have known Nico Eisenhauer since his doctoral period in the Jena Experiment – he was an academic prodigy back then. Today he is an international star tackling the Herculean task of functional biodiversity research. He wants to know how the invisible yet bewilderingly vast biodiversity in soils keeps our ecosystems running – a question that concerns all of humanity. To this end, he masterfully employs the entire gamut of iDiv’s integrative concept, from large-scale experiments to global synthesis.”

About the prize

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research award in Germany. The Leibniz Programme, established in 1985, aims to improve the working conditions of outstanding researchers, expand their research opportunities, relieve them of administrative tasks, and help them employ particularly qualified early career researchers. 

The awards are endowed with 2.5 million euros each. The prizewinners can use this money for their research work for up to seven years, following their own ideas and without bureaucratic red tape. The 2021 Leibniz Prizes will be awarded during an online event on 15 March.

 

Contact:

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Experimental Interaction Ecology Thu, 10 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Does biodiversity evoke happiness? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1878.html Study shows: Happier people often congregate in environments with many bird species Study shows: Happier people often congregate in environments with many bird species

Based on a media release by Senckenberg.

Frankfurt, Leipzig, Kiel. A high biological diversity in our immediate vicinity is as important for life satisfaction as our income. These are the findings that scientists from Senckenberg, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and the University of Kiel recently published in the journal Ecological Economics. For the first time, the researchers were able to show that all across Europe, the individual enjoyment of life is correlated to the number of bird species in one’s surroundings. An additional ten percent of bird species in the vicinity therefore increases the life satisfaction of Europeans at least as much as a comparable increase in income. Nature conservation thus constitutes an investment in human well-being, according to the researchers.

Under the current pandemic conditions, activities out in nature are a popular pastime. The beneficial effects of a diverse nature on people’s mental health have already been documented by studies on a smaller scale. Scientists of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, the iDiv, and the University of Kiel now examined for the first time whether a diverse nature also increases human well-being on a Europe- wide scale. 

To this end, the researchers used the data from the “2012 European quality of Life Survey” to study the connection between the species diversity in their surroundings and the life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. Species diversity was measured based on the diversity of avian species, as documented in the European breeding bird atlas. 

“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” explains the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt. ”According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Birds are well-suited as indicators of biological diversity, since they are among the most visible elements of the animate nature – particularly in urban areas. Moreover, their song can often be heard even if the bird itself is not visible, and most birds are popular and people like to watch them. But there is also a second aspect that affects life satisfaction: the surroundings. A particularly high number of bird species can be found in areas with a high proportion of near-natural and diverse landscapes that hold numerous greenspaces and bodies of water. 

“We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income,” explains Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, and member of the iDiv. This result becomes particularly obvious when both values increase by ten percent. Fourteen additional bird species in the vicinity raise the level of life satisfaction at least as much as an extra 124 Euros per month in the household account, based on an average income of 1,237 Euro per month in Europe. 

According to the study, a diverse nature therefore plays an important role for human well-being across Europe – even beyond its material services. At the same time, the researchers draw attention to impending health-related problems. “The Global Assessment 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe clearly show that the biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all,” adds Methorst in conclusion. 

This research was, among others, supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

Methorst, J., Rehdanz, K., Mueller, T., Hansjürgens, B., Bonn, A., Böhning-Gaese, K. (2020): The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe. Ecological Economics, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106917

 

Contact:

Joel Methorst
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 75421872
Email: joel.methorst@senckenberg.de

 

Prof Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Phone: +49 (0)69 7542 1821
Email: katrin.boehning-gaese@senckenberg.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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yDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services iDiv Members Thu, 03 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Leipzig researchers compile world’s largest inventory of known plant species https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1869.html City could become a global reference for plant biodiversity researchers City could become a global reference for plant biodiversity researchers

Leipzig. Researchers at Leipzig University (UL) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have compiled the world’s most comprehensive list of known plant species. It contains 1,315,562 names of vascular plants, thus extending the number of recognised plant species and subspecies by some 70,000 – equivalent to about 20%. The researchers have also succeeded in clarifying 181,000 hitherto unclear species names. The data set has now been published in Scientific Data. This marks the culmination of more than ten years of intensive research work and could help to make Leipzig a leading international centre of plant biodiversity research.

Leipzig could mean for the future of plant taxonomy what Greenwich meant for world time until 1972: it could become the reference city for correct scientific plant names. In an outstanding feat of research, the curator of the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University, Dr Martin Freiberg, and colleagues from iDiv and UL have compiled what is now the largest and most complete list of scientific names of all known plant species in the world. The Leipzig Catalogue of Vascular Plants (LCVP) enormously updates and expands existing knowledge on the naming of plant species, and could replace The Plant List (TPL) – a catalogue created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London which until now has been the most important reference source for plant researchers.

“In my daily work at the Botanical Garden, I regularly come across species names that are not clear, where existing reference lists have gaps,” said Freiberg. “This always means additional research, which keeps you from doing your actual work and above all limits the reliability of research findings. I wanted to eliminate this obstacle as well as possible.”

World’s most comprehensive and reliable catalogue of plant names

With 1,315,562 scientific names, the LCVP is the largest of its kind in the world describing vascular plants. Freiberg compiled information from accessible relevant databases, harmonized it and standardised the names listed according to the best possible criteria. On the basis of 4500 other studies, he investigated further discrepancies such as different spellings and synonyms. He also added thousands of new species to the existing lists – species identified in recent years, mainly thanks to rapid advances in molecular genetic analysis techniques.

The LCVP now comprises 351,180 vascular plant species and 6160 natural hybrids across 13,460 genera, 564 families and 84 orders. It also lists all synonyms and provides further taxonomic details. This means that it contains over 70,000 more species and subspecies than the most important reference work to date, TPL. The latter has not been updated since 2013, making it an increasingly outdated tool for use in research, according to Freiberg.

“The catalogue will help considerably in ensuring that researchers all over the world refer to the same species when they use a name,” says Freiberg. Originally, he had intended his data set for internal use in Leipzig. “But then many colleagues from other botanical gardens in Germany urged me to make the work available to everyone.”

LCVP vastly expands global knowledge of plant diversity 

“Almost every field in plant research depends on reliably naming species,” says Dr Marten Winter of iDiv, adding: “Modern science often means combining data sets from different sources. We need to know exactly which species people refer to, so as not to compare apples and oranges or to erroneously lump different species.” Using the LCVP as a reference will now offer researchers a much higher degree of certainty and reduce confusion. And this will also increase the reliability of research results, adds Winter.

“Working alone, Martin Freiberg has achieved something truly incredible here,” says the director of the Botanical Garden and co-author Prof Christian Wirth (UL, iDiv). “This work has been a mammoth task, and with the LCVP he has rendered an invaluable service to plant research worldwide. I am also pleased that our colleagues from iDiv, with their expertise in biodiversity informatics, were able to make a significant contribution to this work.”

This research was in part supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Freiberg, M., Winter, M., Gentile, A., Zizka, A., Muellner-Riehl, A.N., Weigelt, A. & Wirth, C. (2020): LCVP, The Leipzig catalogue of vascular plants, a new taxonomic reference list for all known vascular plants. Scientific Data. DOI: 10.1038/s41597-020-00702-z

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Freiberg
Curator of the Botanical Garden of Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 36869
Email: freiberg@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.lw.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut/ag/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/people/martin-freiberg/

 

Dr Marten Winter
Coordinator of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

Prof Alexandra Muellner-Riehl
Leipzig University
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +493419738581
Email: muellner-riehl@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS iDiv Members Thu, 26 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
EuropaBON: MLU and iDiv lead new pan-European project for joint monitoring https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1871.html Information system on Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems for policy makers Information system on Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems for policy makers

Based on a media release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

A new research project aims at developing a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe. It is being coordinated by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. The results of the project are to inform the political decisions of the European Commission and other decision-makers. The EU is providing three million euros in funding for the project. A virtual kick-off meeting of the project partners will take place from 1 to 3 December.

In May of this year the European Commission presented the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy aims to restore threatened or already degraded ecosystems in Europe by the year 2030 and to halt biodiversity loss. “The problem is that we do not have a consistent picture of how biodiversity is changing across different species and taxonomic groups - for example mammals or amphibians – in the different regions of Europe,” says Professor Henrique Pereira, a researcher at MLU and iDiv. There are numerous studies and data on biodiversity in Europe; however, the collected data are often limited to time and place, and to individual species or taxonomic groups. Therefore, it is often difficult to compare the data. “A systematic, up-to-date information system that reflects the status of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems is needed in order to establish informed policy measures. It must also be geared to the needs of policymakers,” says Pereira.

This is where the European research alliance “EuropaBON” comes in, which Pereira will coordinate together with Dr Jessica Junker. One of its goals is to develop a new standard for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Another aim is to harmonise the data that have already been published on these issues. This includes data on biodiversity and other factors, such as water quality, as well as satellite data and data from government agencies, long-term trials, and other scientific sources. Often these data were collected with the intent of answering a specific research question and are difficult to compare.

Clarifying how this can nevertheless be achieved and the data be integrated is another goal of the project. Researchers and political decision-makers will collaborate on developing and tracking a range of so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables that will provide a coherent overall picture of Europe and form the basis for political decisions. “We want to synchronise the information requirements between politics and science,” says Pereira in summary.

For this broad-based project, the team from Halle and Leipzig is drawing on a network of 14 partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. “The data and the methods behind them are far too complex for one institution to handle alone. That’s why we are glad to have established this top-class scientific network,” says Pereira.

By the end of the project, various options for a European network will have been established for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Using concrete case studies, the team will examine the feasibility of the concepts - from data acquisition and management to reporting to the European Commission. In the future, the system should also make it possible to retrospectively assess the effect of individual nature conservation measures.

Further information about the project at http://europabon.org/

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Dr Jessica Junker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733123
Email: jessica.junker@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Thu, 26 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Rescue plan for the Leipzig floodplain forest https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1866.html Experts from research, authorities and NGOs develop a common vision and evaluate possible measures Experts from research, authorities and NGOs develop a common vision and evaluate possible measures

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Mon, 23 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2020 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1857.html 12 iDiv members named Highly Cited Researchers

Clarivate Analytics lists 12 iDiv members in its 2020 selection of “Highly Cited Researchers”. According to Clarivate Analytics, these scientists have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers, during the last decade.

The following iDiv members can be found on the list (in alphabetical order):

• Prof François Buscot (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Leipzig University)

• Prof Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, Leipzig University)

• Prof Jonathan Gershenzon (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, iDiv)

• Prof Stanley Harpole (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Dr Jens Kattge (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Ingolf Kühn (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, iDiv)

• Prof Markus Reichstein (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Prof Matthias Rillig (Freie Universität Berlin, iDiv)

• Prof Josef Settele (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

• Prof Peter F. Stadler (Leipzig University, iDiv)

• Prof Susan Trumbore (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

• Dr Marten Winter (iDiv)

 

In total, approximately 6,400 researchers from 21 research fields have been selected.

See full list: https://recognition.webofscience.com/awards/highly-cited/2020/

 

Contact:

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/17.html

 

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TOP NEWS Thu, 19 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
More plant diversity, less pesticides https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1854.html Species-rich plant communities help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts. Species-rich plant communities help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts.

Leipzig/Jena/Minnesota. Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands. Species-rich plant communities support natural predators and simultaneously provide less valuable food for herbivores. This was found by a team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), who conducted two analogous experiments in Germany and the USA. Their results were published in Science Advances and show that increasing plant biodiversity could help reduce pesticide inputs in agricultural systems by enhancing natural biological control.

Biodiversity – the biological diversity of all species on Earth, their interactions and the diverse ecosystems they form – is crucial for providing and maintaining ecosystem functions and services in planted and natural grasslands. With an increasing demand to feed the world’s growing population by intensifying agriculture, these grasslands are put under pressure, too. Insect herbivores are causing an estimated 18-26% loss in global crop production, which has driven significant growth in the use of environmentally costly pesticides.  

To investigate whether and how increasing plant diversity can naturally reduce the impacts of herbivores on plants, an international team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) made use of two long-running grassland biodiversity experiments in Europe and North America: the Jena Experiment in Germany and the Cedar Creek Biodiversity Experiment in Minnesota (USA). Over the course of two years, the scientists collected data from these two analogous experiments, providing deep insight into the food web structure of monocultures and species-rich grasslands. “These two long-term experiments have generated invaluable insight, for both fundamental and applied research, that has brought to light the importance of maintaining biodiversity,” said senior author Nico Eisenhauer, professor at UL and head of a research group at iDiv as well as speaker of the Jena Experiment.

Species-rich plant communities less attractive to herbivores

The researchers found that plants in more diverse communities lose significantly less energy to herbivorous insects. In high-diversity mixtures, the feeding rate of herbivores per gram of plant biomass was 44% lower than in monocultures. Thus, for every gram of plant biomass produced, plants lose just under half as much energy to arthropod herbivores when planted in species-rich communities. “That ultimately means that where multiple species are planted together, this will yield more plant biomass per square meter, and each individual plant in diverse mixtures will receive lower damage from herbivores,” said first author and iDiv alumnus Andrew Barnes, now senior lecturer at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

In patches with higher plant diversity, arthropod herbivores have lower chances of encountering their preferred plant species – which makes it less likely that they will remain in these high-diversity patches. In addition, previous research had shown lower levels of tissue protein (nitrogen) in plant communities with high species richness, making these plants less nutritious for herbivores.

Predators benefit from increased plant diversity

Although the total biomass of herbivores and predators both increased in species-rich grasslands, predators benefited more strongly from diverse plant communities: Compared to monocultures, they increased notably in both their total biomass and feeding rates. A possible explanation could be that arthropod predators such as spiders, some beetles or wasps benefit significantly from the more complex habitat of high-diversity plant communities, which reduces their risk of being detected and eaten by vertebrate predators such as birds and mammals.

Increasing plant diversity, thus, has several positive side effects: Compared to monocultures, high-diversity plant communities produce more total biomass. In addition, both natural enemies and resource concentration act in concert to constrain the negative effects of herbivores on plant performance. Andrew Barnes said: “In other words, more diverse plant communities pose a double-edged problem for herbivores—that is, more predators and less preferred food—that could help to naturally reduce herbivore impacts.”

Plant biodiversity can limit herbivore pest outbreaks

By contrast, pest control that relies heavily on insecticides can lead to detrimental rebounds of herbivore pests as pesticide application may destabilise the communities of natural enemies. “Our experiments show that conserving plant diversity provides multiple benefits for controlling herbivore pests, which could play a key role in reducing inputs of agrochemicals and enhancing plant productivity,” said Andrew Barnes. Nico Eisenhauer added: “Ultimately, this study demonstrates that supporting biodiversity can leverage the sustainable management of ecosystems and the benefits to people.”

Kati Kietzmann

This research was, among others, supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
A. D. Barnes, C. Scherber, U. Brose, E. T. Borer, A. Ebeling, B. Gauzens, D. P. Giling, J. Hines, F. Isbell, C. Ristok, D. Tilman, W. W. Weisser, N. Eisenhauer (2020). 'Biodiversity enhances the multitrophic control of arthropod herbivory. Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6603

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Andrew Barnes
The University of Waikato
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Phone: +64 7 838 4460
Email: barnesa@waikato.ac.nz

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research iDiv Experimental Interaction Ecology Theory in Biodiversity Science TOP NEWS Fri, 06 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
The seductive scent of sweet fruits https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1851.html New iDiv research group investigates communication between plants and animals New iDiv research group investigates communication between plants and animals

The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) adds a new research field to its portfolio. From November 2020, the biologist Dr Omer Nevo will head the new Junior Research Group 'Evolutionary Ecology' at iDiv and Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). The 35-year-old scientist is particularly interested in chemical communication between plants and animals – in detail, how plants attract seed-dispersing animals by their fruit scent and how both sides have adapted to each other. This knowledge about the signalling effect of odours should also help to find new approaches in nature conservation. Nevo and his team will be funded for six years with about 1.3 million euros from the Emmy Noether Programme of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

The sweet scent of a fig is irresistible to the wild lemurs of Madagascar. But how did the fruits' smell become so appealing to the animals? This is the main question that Omer Nevo’s new research group plans to investigate at iDiv from November onwards.

To find answers, the researchers will combine chemical and genetic approaches. With the help of behavioural experiments with lemurs, the researchers plan to investigate how their sense of smell might have developed in response to this signal. “Seed dispersal and the ecological process behind it are the glue that holds many tropical systems together,” says Nevo. “A collapse in reliable animal-plant interactions would stop forest regeneration and, in the long run, drive a substantial decline in tropical biodiversity.” 


“Lion scent” as a tool in nature conservation

Nevo and his team also work on practical tools for nature conservation. A project in South Africa explores the chemical ecology of elephants and the results will help develop novel conservation tools. Crop raiding by elephants are a massive problem in their home ranges. It can lead to economic devastation of subsistence communities, and to conflicts that often culminate in the killing of elephants. Nevo and his colleagues try to identify chemicals that can act as safe and cost-effective repellents for elephants, thus mitigating the human-elephant conflicts.

At iDiv scientists from different backgrounds such as biology, computer science, psychology, social sciences etc. work together with the aim of conducting integrative research. “iDiv has become one of the most exciting global research institutions,” the biologist says. “It hosts a unique concentration of scientists and research groups doing cutting-edge ecology research. I believe this will strongly benefit our own research.” 

Best conditions for productive collaboration

Nevo’s field of expertise is a perfect fit for iDiv and its research portfolio and provides the basis for strong collaborations. “One of the most productive chemical ecology groups – the 'Molecular Interaction Ecology' group of Prof Nicole van Dam – works at iDiv,” says Nevo. “In addition, Dr Renske Onstein’s junior research group 'Evolution und Adaptation' is one of very few research groups in the world focusing on the evolution of fruit traits, a topic that is at the heart of my research.”

The DFG’s Emmy Noether Programme, which will fund Omer Nevo and his team for the coming six years, aims to support exceptionally qualified early-career researchers. By leading an independent junior research group, participants formally satisfy the prerequisites for appointment as a university professor. Nevo has recently worked at the Institute for Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics at Ulm University.

 

Interview with Dr Omer Nevo

 

Contact:

Dr Omer Nevo
Head of Junior Research Group Evolutionary Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Phone: +49 341 97 33279
Email: omer.nevo@evolutionary-ecology.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/evoeco

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Evolutionary Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Thu, 29 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Climate change drives plants to extinction in the Black Forest in Germany, study finds https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1849.html Due to rising temperatures and longer dry periods, two plant species have already gone extinct.

Based on a press release by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

Climate change is leaving its mark on the bog complexes of the German Black Forest. Due to rising temperatures and longer dry periods, two plant species have already gone extinct over the last 40 years. The populations of many others have decreased by one third. In the next couple of decades ten more species could become extinct, researchers from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) write in Diversity and Distributions.

There are only a few healthy ombrotrophic bogs, raised bogs and spring mires left in Germany. They used to cover large swathes of north-western Germany. Today they are still found in the foothills of the Alps and on low mountain ranges, for example in the Black Forest. They are very sensitive ecosystems that are highly dependent on certain climatic conditions. “These bogs and spring mires are seismographs of climate change. They react very sensitively to small changes in precipitation and temperature,” says professor Helge Bruelheide, a geobotanist at MLU and iDiv. Bog complexes also have a very high proportion of endangered plant and animal species.

Bruelheide joined forces with Thomas Sperle, a biologist and wetlands expert, to investigate the trends in biodiversity in bogs and spring mires in the southern region of the Black Forest. The two scientists drew on data from the 1970s about the vegetation of 124 complete bogs. Sperle completely re-surveyed nearly all of the areas over a period of four years. “It is really tricky to prove the extinction of a species for an entire bog. I had to carefully scan the whole area to ensure that specific individuals were not overlooked,” says Sperle. Bruelheide then used the data to analyse the 88 plant species. Two species have already become extinct. The population size of another 37 have decreased by about one third since the 1970s. This has disproportionately affected so-called specialist species that are adapted to specific climatic conditions and make up a large portion of the biodiversity in Germany. However, there were also 46 so-called generalist species that have coped better with the changes and whose numbers have increased over time.

The researchers also checked whether their observations could be explained by other factors, such as the size of the bogs, the distance from one bog to another and whether adjacent areas were used for agriculture. However, no factor could explain the data better than climate change. “Our analyses clearly show that species are declining and dying out in places where it is drier and warmer for longer periods of time in the summer. This is the first indication that climate change has already arrived in our latitudes,” concludes Bruelheide. “It is getting noticeably drier and hotter in the Black Forest, which is why this change is evident there. Presumably, the same thing will happen in other low mountain ranges such as the Harz. Our study can serve as an example for other regions in Germany, but also for other habitats and groups of species.”

In their study, the biologists predict that ten more specialist species will disappear by 2045 if conditions progress as expected. This is an alarming sign as there is no way to counteract this extinction in raised bogs and spring moors. “You cannot really replace missing rain in those bogs,” says Bruelheide. The new study is an outcome of the iDiv project "sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany". Reliable data on the development of biodiversity are compiled and analysed throughout Germany as part of this initiative. To this end, researchers team up with public institutions and numerous nature conservationists.

This study was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118, 202548816) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, a synthesis project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, in cooperation with public authorities, specialist organisations and associations.

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

Sperle T., Bruelheide H. (2020): Climate change aggravates bog species extinctions in the Black Forest (Germany). Diversity and Distributions. Doi: 10.1111/ddi.13184

 

Contact:

Prof Helge Bruelheide
Professor for Geobotany
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Co-Director of the
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-345 5526222
Email: helge.bruelheide@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: http://www.botanik.uni-halle.de/geobotanik/helge_bruelheide/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv iDiv Members Media Release Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Biodiversity monitoring programmes need a culture of collaboration https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1847.html Integration of contributors promotes the quantity and quality of data Integration of contributors promotes the quantity and quality of data

Biodiversity loss is continuing relentlessly worldwide. In order to counteract this more effectively, monitoring programmes are needed which precisely map the circumstances of animal and plant species and the extent to which they are under threat. But too often, these are still inadequate – the range of species examined is not extensive enough, and there is too little coordination. A team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) describes, in an article for the scientific journal One Earth how different stakeholders can combine their data and expertise to improve monitoring and thus counteract further species loss.

Ecological monitoring is the recording of biological diversity and its spatial and temporal changes. The lack of monitoring programmes which cover a broad range of species often means that, in many countries, no clear assessments can be made about the status of biodiversity. As a result, factors which may lead to declines cannot be identified and remedied.

The necessary information, and the various stakeholders such as public authorities, scientists, specialist organisations, nature conservation associations and certain professional groups from the private sector would definitely be available in many places. However, they cannot always work in a coordinated way, as they often operate within very different institutional frameworks. Valuable knowledge and data are therefore not pooled, and gaps in the collection of data not filled. “This is why we have to create a culture of integration involving all those who are active in biodiversity monitoring,” says the first author of the study, Dr Hjalmar Kühl, ecologist at iDiv and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA).

Framework of trust

This can be achieved by bringing the various stakeholder groups together. “What’s needed is a framework within which decisions are not always made centrally, but in which the various groups network, trust each other and decide together what needs to be done,” says Kühl. “This self-organisation can increase the participants’ motivation and thus ensure greater acceptance on the part of the respective interest groups and anchor the topic of biodiversity more firmly in the public consciousness.”

To achieve this, workshops and symposia could bring relevant stakeholders together to collaborate in developing appropriate incentives and the necessary technical requirements for the exchange of data, results and analyses. “New approaches for the analysis of a wide range of monitoring data show how the information provided by a monitoring network can be interlinked with that from others,” says co-author Dr Diana Bowler, ecologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and iDiv. This allows the activities of various interest groups and individuals to be easily integrated.

In Europe, between 80 and 90 percent of biodiversity data is collected by volunteers

The assistance and involvement of volunteers, participants in Citizen Science programmes and species experts from professional associations is indispensable in many cases. For example, it was only through a study by the Krefeld Entomological Association which, in 2017, revealed the severe decline in flying insects that insect protection became a topic for the political agenda in Germany. Particularly, in the case of species groups such as beetles, hoverflies and cicadas, for whose identification the authorities rely on taxonomic expertise, volunteer participation is important for long-term surveys.

“There’s a long history of volunteer natural scientists who are fascinated by biological diversity and work for its preservation,” says last author Prof Aletta Bonn, research group leader at the UFZ, iDiv and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. “This citizen science data can be integrated with other monitoring data to identify trends and information gaps. A cultural change regarding cooperation in science is required - towards integrated monitoring for sustainable biodiversity protection.”

This study was funded by, among others, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; FZT 118, 202548816) as part of “sMon - Biodiversity Trends in Germany”, a synthesis project of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, in cooperation with public authorities, specialist organisations and associations.

Benjamin Haerdle

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Kühl, H.S., Bowler, D.E., Bösch, L., Bruelheide, H., Dauber, J., Eichenberg, D., Eisenhauer, N., Fernandez, N., Guerra, C., Henle, K., Herbinger, I., Isaac, N.J.B., Jansen, F., Koenig-Ries, B., Kühn, I., Nilsen, E.B., Pe’er, G., Richter, A., Schulte, R., Settele, J., van Dam, N.M., Voigt, M., Wägele, J.W., Wirth, C., Bonn, A. (2020): Effective biodiversity monitoring needs a culture of integration, One Earth 3(4):462-474. DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2020.09.010

 

Contact:

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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sDiv Media Release Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Tue, 27 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Land management in forest and grasslands: how much can we intensify? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1835.html A first assessment of the effects of land management on the linkages between biodiversity,... A first assessment of the effects of land management on the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services

Based on a media release by the University of Bern

Leipzig/Bern. High land-use intensity reduces the beneficial effects of biodiversity on ecosystem services. This is the main result of a study conducted by an international team led by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Bern. The study published in PNAS assessed, for the first time, the effects of land management on the links between three ecosystem attributes simultaniously: biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. It identified thresholds of management intensity, where these relationships change dramatically, which species groups were most important in driving services, and the ecosystem services that are at risk when management is intensified.

Ecosystem services are crucial for human well-being and they depend on a well-functioning ecosystem and complex interactions among many organisms. However, human activities are resulting in biodiversity loss and changes to ecosystems, which threatens the supply of key services. An international team of 32 scientists, from 22 institutions, led by Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia (UFZ, iDiv) and Prof Eric Allan (University of Bern) now present the very first assessment of the simultaneous effects of land-use intensity on biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services.

A new approach to investigate shifts in the ecosystem 

The researchers investigated how these interactions vary with land-use intensity. They analysed data from 300 German grasslands and forests, varying in land-use intensity, and borrowed approaches from network analysis to characterize the overall relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services. 

“We already knew that land use affects biodiversity and ecosystem functioning,” says the lead author of the paper Dr Felipe-Lucia, senior scientist at UFZ and iDiv. “But we knew very little about how land-use intensity simultaneously alters the relationships between diversities, functions and services. By understanding these relationships, we can anticipate how future changes in land use will affect ecosystems and human wellbeing.”

We cannot intensify without limits: varied landscapes are the key

The study demonstrates that low intensity farming and forestry can provide material benefits (fodder, timber), while preserving biodiversity. In contrast, high intensity practices increase material benefits but reduce biodiversity and the benefits people derive from it. 

“With increasing land-use intensity we are losing specialized relationships,” Felipe-Lucia concludes. “This is comparable to shopping either in a low-quality mega-store or in a specialized boutique.” Similar to specialized boutiques, where it is necessary to visit many different of them to get the best items, low land-use intensity grasslands and forests are specialized in a particular set of biodiversity, functions and associated services. High land-use intensity landscapes are comparable to mega-stores where all kinds of goods can be found at one place, but of lower quality.

“As in any city, it is ok to have a couple of mega-stores, but we cannot neglect the smaller high-quality boutiques either. In our landscapes, we need to maintain pockets of low land-use intensity to provide these specialized gifts,” explains Allan, senior author of the paper.

From ecosystem functioning to human-dependent landscapes

In healthy ecosystems, more species usually means higher levels of ecosystem services for people and therefore better human wellbeing. “Intensification tends to homogenize biodiversity-functioning-service relationships and lead to a less integrated system with fewer positive relations between services,” points out Allan. “Diverse low intensity systems can provide different sets of services and a varied landscape could therefore be the key to solve conflicting land uses and provide a wider range of services while preserving biodiversity.” 

“We also identified the level of management intensity that disrupts the normal functioning of the landscape, that is, when the ecosystem becomes more dependent on human inputs (such as fertilizer) for its functioning,” says Felipe-Lucia.

The new analyses can help to detect the loss of correlations between biodiversity and ecosystem services, which could be taken as an early warning signal of ecosystem change. “Our approach provides a new and comprehensive view of ecosystem functioning and can identify the key ecosystem attributes to monitor in order to prevent critical shifts in ecosystems,” says Allan. “It can also be applied to analyze the effects of other global changes such as climate change.”

 

The study was conducted in the framework of the Biodiversity Exploratories project, a priority program funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). 

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

M. R. Felipe-Lucia, S. Soliveres, C. Penone, M. Fischer, C. Ammer, S. Boch, R. Boeddinghaus, M. Bonkowski, F. Buscot, A.M. Fiore-Donno, K. Frank, K. Goldmann, M.M. Gossner, N. Hölzel, M. Jochum, E. Kandeler, V. H. Klaus, T. Kleinebecker, S. Leimer, P. Manning, Y. Oelmann, H. Saiz, P. Schall, M. Schloter, I. Schöning, M. Schrumpf, E.F. Solly, B. Stempfhuber, W.W. Weisser, W. Wilcke, T. Wubet, E. Allan (2020. Land-use intensity alters networks between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2016210117

 

Contact:

Dr Maria Felipe-Lucia
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733183
Email: maria.felipe-lucia@idiv.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=45282

 

Prof Eric Allan
University of Bern, Switzerland
Institute of Plant Sciences
Phone: +41 31 631 49 92
Email: eric.allan@ips.unibe.ch
Web: https://www.ips.unibe.ch/aboutus/personen/commeco/prof_dr_allan_eric/index_eng.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Shifts in flowering phases of plants due to reduced insect density https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1846.html Research group of iDiv and Jena University uses novel research method to study effect of insect... Research group of iDiv and Jena University uses novel research method to study effect of insect decline on plant biodiversity

Based on a media release by the Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Leipzig/Jena. It still sounds unlikely today, but declines in insect numbers could well make it a frequent occurrence in the future: fields full of flowers, but not a bee in sight. A research group of the University of Jena and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has discovered that insects have a decisive influence on the biodiversity and flowering phases of plants. If there is a lack of insects where the plants are growing, their flowering behaviour changes. This can result in the lifecycles of the insects and the flowering periods of the plants no longer coinciding. If the insects seek nectar at the wrong time, some plants will no longer be pollinated.

Ecosystems are changing around the world, in particular due to global warming and altered land use. Insect species are dying out and the insect biomass is decreasing. Researchers have therefore studied how the biodiversity of plants is changing in the context of climate change. For this purpose, various climate scenarios have been simulated, using different temperatures and precipitation.

Innovative research method in iDiv Ecotron

In a new study reported in the specialist journal “Frontiers in Plant Science”, the research group Biodiversity of Plants of the University of Jena, led by iDiv member Prof. Christine Römermann, presents a different research approach. In cooperation with scientists from iDiv, led by Prof. Nico Eisenhauer, the researchers are focusing on the influence of invertebrates, such as insects, on the biodiversity and flowering behaviour of plants. 

“We know that the insect biomass is decreasing,” says Josephine Ulrich, a doctoral candidate from Römermann’s team, referring to a study from 2017 which detected that insects had declined by 75 per cent over the previous 30 years. 

The Jena research group has now studied in detail for the first time the extent to which decreasing insect density influences plant development. Whereas previous studies had only carried out field experiments, the research team used the Ecotron, an iDiv research facility where identical climatic situations can be simulated in artificial ecosystems and observed with cameras.

In their experiment, the researchers studied how plant composition and plant development change if the number of insects falls by three-quarters. 

Mismatch between plant and animal worlds

Ulrich and her colleagues discovered that the reduced insect biomass brings about a change in plant species. It is especially the dominant plant species, such as red clover, which become more prevalent. The development of the flowering period also changes as insect density declines. Some of the plants studied flowered earlier and others later. 

“These changes can lead to mismatches between plant and animal species, which lead to adverse consequences for the ecosystem,” says Ulrich, the lead author of the study. Examples are the food supply of insects and pollination success. This deterioration in the ecosystem function could entail further losses of insect and plant species. An additional consequence could be that plants become increasingly infested with pests. Due to the falling numbers of insects that feed on aphids, for example, these pests could spread unchecked. 

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Josephine Ulrich, Solveig Franziska Bucher, Nico Eisenhauer, Anja Schmidt, Manfred Türke, Alban Gebler, Kathryn Barry, Markus Lange and Christine Römermann (2020): Invertebrate Decline Leads to Shifts in Plant Species Abundance and Phenology, Frontiers in Plant Science, DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.542125

 

Contact:

Josephine Ulrich
Institute for Ecology and Evolution
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 3641 949267
Email: josephine.ulrich@uni-jena.de

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Research iDiv Members TOP NEWS Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
We need a safety net for biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1843.html New publication in Science with iDiv contribution

Based on a media release by the National University of Córdoba and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)

Córdoba, Leipzig, Halle. A “safety net” made up of multiple interlinked and ambitious goals is needed to tackle nature’s alarming decline. No single goal can capture the broad range of characteristics that need to be sustained, concludes a large international team with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB). The study, published in the journal Science, outlines the scientific basis for redesigning the new set of biodiversity goals.

The scientific advice comes at a critical time: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently announced that none of its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 has been reached. Policymakers, scientists and country negotiators are now preparing for the next generation of biodiversity goals for 2030 and 2050, to be enshrined by their 15th Convention of the Parties in 2021. Countries, organisations and interest groups have put forward proposals for particular facets of nature, such as species, natural ecosystems or genetic diversity.

Led by Earth Commission scientists a group of more than 60 leading biodiversity experts from 26 countries assessed these draft goals and asked what scientific evidence supports them, how these goals reinforce or undermine each other, and whether one aspect of nature could serve as a shortcut for others. The result is an independent, scientifically grounded, unprecedentedly comprehensive assessment. 

 “We hope this is a useful tool in the CBD negotiations on a new strategy for nature and people,” said Professor Sandra Díaz, lead author of the paper. She is Professor at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. She co-leads the Earth Commission’s working group on biosphere interactions and has co-chaired the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

To reach the road to recovery, ecosystems, species, genetic diversity and nature’s contributions to people all need distinct goals, and these goals need to be woven together into a safety net and set at a high level of ambition.

According to the scientists three points are critical for nations to take into account when setting the new biodiversity goals: Firstly, a single goal for nature, based on a single facet, for example, focused only on species extinctions, or ecosystem area, similar to the ”below 2°C” target for climate, is risky. Multiple, distinct goals are needed for ecosystems, species, genes and nature’s contributions to people to make sure none of them falls through the gaps. Secondly, as the facets of nature are interlinked and affect each other for better or worse, the goals must be defined and delivered holistically, not in isolation. Thirdly, only the highest level of ambition for setting each goal, and implementing all goals in an integrated manner, will give a realistic chance of “bending” the curve of nature’s decline by 2050. 

The paper provides the scientific basis for distinguishing between low and high ambitions. Ambitious goals should include the strict “no net loss” and targeted restorations of ecosystems, both in natural and managed lands, minimal loss of species, 90 percent of genetic diversity conserved and a broad range of nature’s contributions to people secured. 

“Building a sufficiently ambitious safety net for nature will be a major global challenge,” said Díaz, “but unless we do it, we are leaving huge problems for every future generation.”

“Biodiversity change is a challenge even more complex than climate change. The biodiversity community has come up with an agenda to address this challenge that in some ways is more advanced than the current goals for climate, as it recognises we need to act for multiple goals in a synergistic way and also on different drivers,” added Professor Henrique Miguel Pereira, Head of Biodiversity Conservation at iDiv and MLU.

“A key factor is that biodiversity is a very multidimensional feature. The different dimensions need to be synergistically targeted to reach our goal of biodiversity conservation – we are bound to fail if we do not take this multidimensionality into account”, says Luc De Meester, director of IGB and Professor of Freshwater Science at the Freie Universität Berlin.

The authors have produced a checklist of key science-based points that negotiators could have handy during the upcoming negotiations of the final text of the new biodiversity goals.

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Sandra Díaz, Noelia Zafra-Calvo, Andy Purvis, Peter H. Verburg, David Obura, Paul Leadley, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Luc De Meester, Ehsan Dulloo, Berta Martín-López, M. Rebecca Shaw, Piero Visconti, Wendy Broadgate, Michael W. Bruford, Neil D. Burgess, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Fabrice DeClerck, José María Fernández-Palacios, Lucas A. Garibaldi, Samantha L. L. Hill, Forest Isbell, Colin K. Khoury, Cornelia B. Krug, Jianguo Liu, Martine Maron, Philip J. K. McGowan, Henrique M. Pereira, Victoria Reyes-García, Juan Rocha, Carlo Rondinini, Lynne Shannon, Yunne-Jai Shin, Paul V. R. Snelgrove, Eva M. Spehn, Bernardo Strassburg, Suneetha M. Subramanian, Joshua J. Tewksbury, James E. M. Watson, Amy E. Zanne (2020) Set ambitious goals for biodiversity and sustainability. Science 370:411. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abe1530

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/17.html

 

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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Conservation Media Release Fri, 23 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Academies demand rapid action to preserve biodiversity in the agricultural landscape https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1838.html Position paper with participation of iDiv scientists  

The full text is only available in German.

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 19 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Long-term consequences of global change difficult to predict https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1834.html Biodiversity experiment provides new insights into the relationship between plant traits and... Biodiversity experiment provides new insights into the relationship between plant traits and ecosystem functions

Based on a media release by Leipzig University

In a longitudinal study, an international research team led by Leipzig University (UL) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has investigated the consequences of changes in plant biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems. The scientists found that the relationships between plant traits and ecosystem functions change from year to year. This makes predicting the long-term consequences of biodiversity change extremely difficult, they write in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“We found that – over the longer term – the links between plant traits and ecosystem functions were indeed very weak, as we could only explain about 12 per cent of the variance in ecosystem functioning,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr Fons van der Plas from the Institute of Biology at UL. Together with colleagues from iDiv and other research institutions in Germany and abroad, he found different patterns than in previous studies – which had focused on short-term links between plant traits and ecosystem functions. These had previously assumed much stronger links between plant traits and ecosystem functioning.

“The main difference between our studies and earlier ones was that we carried out our work over a period of ten years, while most other studies were based on data measured in just one year,” said the biologist. The relationships between plant traits and ecosystem functions changed from year to year: some species become locally extinct, while others replace them.

Scientists often ask themselves how this change in biodiversity affects the way ecosystems function, for example in terms of biomass production, carbon sequestration and pollination. In predicting these consequences, they rely on the traits in which plants differ. For example, some plant species are pollinated by insects, and others by the wind. They hope that knowing which species will be more common in the future and what traits these species have will enable them to make more precise predictions.

The research team led by van der Plas has now discovered, for example, that plant biomass production was maximised in plant communities dominated by species with thick roots in some years and by completely different plant communities in others. In almost every year, a different plant trait was found to have been important for maximising biomass production. According to van der Plas, it is therefore extremely difficult to predict exactly how changes in plant communities affect the functioning of ecosystems over long periods of time.

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

van der Plas, F., Schröder-Georgi, T., Weigelt, A., Barry, K., Meyer, S., Alzate, A., Barnard, R. L., Buchmann, N., de Kroon, H., Ebeling, A., Eisenhauer, N., Engels, C., Fischer, M., Gleixner, G., Hildebrandt, A., Koller-France, E., Leimer, S., Milcu, A., Mommer, L., Niklaus, P.A., Oelmann, Y., Roscher, C., Scherber, C., Scherer-Lorenzen, M., Scheu, S., Schmid, B., Schulze, E. D., Temperton, V., Tscharntke, T., Voigt, W., Weisser, W., Wilcke W. & Wirth, C. (2020) Plant traits alone are poor predictors of ecosystem properties and long-term ecosystem functioning. Nature Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-01316-9

 

Contact:

Dr Fons van der Plas
Institute for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
Leipzig University
Phone: +49-341-97-38587
Email: alfons.van_der_plas@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.lw.uni-leipzig.de/institut/ag/spezbot/mitarbeiterinnen/fons-van-der-plas/

 

Prof Christian Wirth
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig / Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Phone: +49-341-97-38591
Email: cwirth@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.biphaps.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut/ag/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/people/christian-wirth/

 

Prof Dr Alexandra Weigelt
Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
University of Leipzig
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-341-97-38594
Email: alexandra.weigelt@uni-leipzig.de

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Experimental Interaction Ecology Wed, 07 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Efficient pollen identification https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1831.html New method developed at UFZ and iDiv combines image-based particle analysis with artificial... New method developed at UFZ and iDiv combines image-based particle analysis with artificial intelligence

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) 

From pollen forecasting, honey analysis and climate-related changes in plant-pollinator interactions, analysing pollen plays an important role in many areas of research. Microscopy is still the gold standard, but it is very time consuming and requires considerable expertise. In cooperation with Technische Universität (TU) Ilmenau, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now developed a method that allows them to efficiently automate the process of pollen analysis. Their study has been published in the specialist journal New Phytologist.

From pollen forecasting, honey analysis and climate-related changes in plant-pollinator interactions, analysing pollen plays an important role in many areas of research. Microscopy is still the gold standard, but it is very time consuming and requires considerable expertise. In cooperation with Technische Universität (TU) Ilmenau, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now developed a method that allows them to efficiently automate the process of pollen analysis. Their study has been published in the specialist journal New Phytologist.

Pollen is produced in a flower’s stamens and consists of a multitude of minute pollen grains, which contain the plant’s male genetic material necessary for its reproduction. The pollen grains get caught in the tiny hairs of nectar-feeding insects as they brush past and are thus transported from flower to flower. Once there, in the ideal scenario, a pollen grain will cling to the sticky stigma of the same plant species, which may then result in fertilisation.

“Although pollinating insects perform this pollen delivery service entirely incidentally, its value is immeasurably high, both ecologically and economically,” says Dr. Susanne Dunker, head of the working group on imaging flow cytometry at the Department for Physiological Diversity at UFZ and iDiv. “Against the background of climate change and the accelerating loss of species, it is particularly important for us to gain a better understanding of these interactions between plants and pollinators.” Pollen analysis is a critical tool in this regard. 

Each species of plant has pollen grains of a characteristic shape, surface structure and size. When it comes to identifying and counting pollen grains – measuring between 10 and 180 micrometres – in a sample, microscopy has long been considered the gold standard. However, working with a microscope requires a great deal of expertise and is very time-consuming. “Although various approaches have already been proposed for the automation of pollen analysis, these methods are either unable to differentiate between closely related species or do not deliver quantitative findings about the number of pollen grains contained in a sample,” continues biologist Dr. Dunker. Yet it is precisely this information that is critical to many research subjects, such as the interaction between plants and pollinators. 

In their latest study, Susanne Dunker and her team of researchers have developed a novel method for the automation of pollen analysis. To this end they combined the high throughput of imaging flow cytometry – a technique used for particle analysis – with a form of artificial intelligence (AI) known as deep learning to design a highly efficient analysis tool, which makes it possible to both accurately identify the species and quantify the pollen grains contained in a sample. Imaging flow cytometry is a process that is primarily used in the medical field to analyse blood cells but is now also being repurposed for pollen analysis.

“A pollen sample for examination is first added to a carrier liquid, which then flows through a channel that becomes increasingly narrow,” says Susanne Dunker, explaining the procedure. “The narrowing of the channel causes the pollen grains to separate and line up as if they are on a string of pearls, so that each one passes through the built-in microscope element on its own and images of up to 2,000 individual pollen grains can be captured per second.” Two normal microscopic images are taken plus ten fluorescence microscopic images per grain of pollen. When excited with light radiated at certain wavelengths by a laser, the pollen grains themselves emit light. “The area of the colour spectrum in which the pollen fluoresces – and at which precise location – is sometimes very specific. This information provides us with additional traits that can help identify the individual plant species,” reports Susanne Dunker.

In the deep learning process, an algorithm works in successive steps to abstract the original pixels of an image to a greater and greater degree in order to finally extract the species-specific characteristics. “Microscopic images, fluorescence characteristics and high throughput have never been used in combination for pollen analysis before – this really is an absolute first.” Where the analysis of a relatively straightforward sample takes, for example, four hours under the microscope, the new process takes just 20 minutes. UFZ has therefore applied for a patent for the novel high-throughput analysis method, with its inventor, Susanne Dunker, receiving the UFZ Technology Transfer Award in 2019.

The pollen samples examined in the study came from 35 species of meadow plants, including yarrow, sage, thyme and various species of clover such as white, mountain and red clover. In total, the researchers prepared around 430,000 images, which formed the basis for a data set. In cooperation with TU Ilmenau, this data set was then transferred using deep learning into a highly efficient tool for pollen identification. In subsequent analyses, the researchers tested the accuracy of their new method, comparing unknown pollen samples from the 35 plant species against the data set. “The result was more than satisfactory – the level of accuracy was 96 per cent,” says Susanne Dunker. Even species that are difficult to distinguish from one another, and indeed present experts with a challenge under the microscope, could be reliably identified. The new method is therefore not only extremely fast but also highly precise.

In the future, the new process for automated pollen analysis will play a key role in answering critical research questions about interactions between plants and pollinators. How important are certain pollinators like bees, flies and bumblebees for particular plant species? What would be the consequences of losing a species of pollinating insect or a plant? “We are now able to evaluate pollen samples on a large scale, both qualitatively and– at the same time – quantitatively. We are constantly expanding our pollen data set of insect-pollinated plants for that purpose,” comments Susanne Dunker. She aims to expand the data set to include at least those 500 plant species whose pollen is significant as a food source for honeybees.

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-Affiliation bold)

Susanne Dunker, Elena Motivans, Demetra Rakosy, David Boho, Patrick Mäder, Thomas Hornick, Tiffany M. Knight (2020): Pollen analysis using multispectral imaging flow cytometry and deep learning. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.16882

 

Contact:

Dr Susanne Dunker
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733170
Email: +49 341 9733170
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/131.html

 

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Tue, 06 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0200
'Cool' sampling sites more likely to show false trends in biodiversity change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1814.html Data collected at species-rich sites may lead to the wrong conclusions on overall trends Data collected at species-rich sites may lead to the wrong conclusions on overall trends

Leipzig/Halle. Data collected by citizen science initiatives, museums and national parks is an important basis for research on biodiversity change. However, scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) found that sampling sites are oftentimes not representative, which may lead to false conclusions about how biodiversity changes. Their research, published in Conservation Biology, calls for more objective site selection and better training for citizen scientists to prevent a site-selection bias.

To manage and conserve natural ecosystems, it is essential to know how biodiversity changes. As one of those questions, it is important to know whether we are we gaining or losing species. However, getting reliable measurements to study this is a complex task. Data can be collected by researchers during field trips, but a vast amount of data is also provided by different initiatives such as citizen science programs. However, to ensure measurements are reliable, samples need to be representative of the real world. If samples are not representative, they are biased.

In their study, scientists from iDiv, UL and MLU showed that a bias can dramatically change the measurements of biodiversity change. They focused on the so-called site-selection bias, where sampling sites are not selected representatively. For example, if a person wanted to find out how the number of butterfly species is changing in the area over the next ten years, this person will likely not choose a typical and average spot, such as a little meadow behind a supermarket. Instead, a place such as a clearing in the park may seem well suited. Thus, the sampling site is biased towards where many butterfly species can be found. This is the site-selection bias.

Site-selection bias may amplify or even revers trends

Using a computer simulation, the scientists showed that this bias can lead to false conclusions about how biodiversity changes. “If we measure biodiversity at places that have unusually many species, statistical principles suggest that we will more likely observe a drop in species numbers over time,” said first author Dr Andrea Mentges from iDiv. The biased choice of where to take samples may manipulate the collected data and even lead to wrong conclusions. “We found that site-selection bias can even make our measurements point into the wrong direction: while for example in reality we are gaining species, our measurements would falsely suggest that the number of species goes down. This makes clear how important it is to choose representative sampling sites.”

The scientists analysed how wide-spread such site-selection biases are, and found that they can potentially occur in many data sources, such as data collected by museums, national parks, citizen scientists and academic researchers. Whether the site-selection bias affects the measurements depends on the purpose of the collection. The data on the butterflies counted in the local park may still be informative, said Andrea Mentges: “Such data can be used to find out if a certain butterfly species can still be found in the area or if new species are immigrating. But if we use it to find out whether butterfly numbers are increasing or decreasing in the surrounding landscape, we might be wrong.”

Citizen scientists more likely to choose ‘cool’ spots

For their study, the scientists also looked at 44 citizen science initiatives. In many programmes, participants were allowed to choose sites themselves. This free site selection can potentially lead to a bias – depending strongly on the training participants received. Andrea Mentges said: “We assume that if people are not explicitly told that it is important to choose a ‘normal’ site they will always tend to choose a ‘cool’ spot. That’s why we think such programmes can potentially be problematic when there is no in-person training or instructions available online that also focus on site selection.”

In Germany, such training is not very common in citizen science initiatives. Although information material is available to interested participants this may not always prevent a site-selection bias – for example, when participants are encouraged to look for meadows and flower-rich wayside for their observations. “These are great initiatives that collect a lot of useful data,” said Andrea Mentges. “But it may not be suitable for some research questions – for example, whether the number of a certain butterfly species such as the small tortoiseshell is going up or down in general.” However, such site-selection biases can easily be prevented. Prof Dr Jonathan Chase, head of the Biodiversity Synthesis group at iDiv and professor at MLU, said: “The most objective way would be to use systematic, computer-based site-selection schemes, these are also applied more and more often. But it’s always a fine line between scientific accuracy and practical feasibility. And, of course, citizen science programmes owe their existence to the motivation of the many volunteers contributing with their data.”

This research was supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Andrea Mentges, Shane Blowes, Dorothee Hodapp, Helmut Hillebrand, Jonathan M. Chase. Effects of site-selection bias on estimates of biodiversity change. Conservation Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13610 

 

Contact:

Dr Andrea Mentges
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733262
Email: andrea.mentges@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of research group Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/35.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research iDiv Media Release Biodiversity Synthesis TOP NEWS Tue, 29 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Artificial intelligence can help protect orchids and other species https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1830.html New automated method quickly and accurately reveals which species are most threatened New automated method quickly and accurately reveals which species are most threatened

Leipzig/Halle. Orchids may be decorative, but many orchid species are also threatened by land conversion and illegal harvesting. However, only a fraction of those species is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because assessments require a lot of time, resources and expertise. A new approach, an automated assessment developed under the lead of biodiversity researchers from Central Germany, now shows that almost 30% of all orchid species are possibly threatened. The findings have been published in Conservation Biology and suggest that the new approach could speed up conservation assessments of all species on Earth.

Orchids are more than just decorative – they are also economically important in horticulture, in the pharmaceutical industry and even in the food industry. For example, vanilla orchids are grown commercially for their seed pods, and the economy on the northeast of Madagascar centers around the vanilla trade. But many of the approximately 29,000 orchid species face immediate threats by land conversion and illegal harvesting, resulting in an urgent need to identify the most endangered species and protect them from extinction. The global Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the most widely used scheme to evaluate species’ risk of extinction. The assessments are based on rigorous criteria and the best available scientific information, making them resource-intensive and, therefore, only available for a fraction of the species worldwide. To date, only about 1,400 of all orchid species have IUCN Red List assessments.

An international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) addressed this issue with the help of an automated assessment approach including the use of machine learning algorithms – also known as deep learning. The integration of machine learning into automated conservation assessments may bring them to a whole new level. “Deep neural networks are widely used in other fields such as image recognition, but they can also help with conservation assessments,” said Dr Alexander Zizka from iDiv and UL. “With our method, we can incorporate additional aspects such as climate, geographic region or traits related to the respective species – and we can do this very fast.”

Almost 30% of all orchids are possibly threatened

“Ideally, all orchid species would have IUCN Red List assessments – this way, the ones most urgently in need of conservation efforts are identified, which is the critical first step in conservation,” said Dr Pati Vitt of Northwestern University in Evanston (USA). Vitt, an expert in the field of orchids, came on sabbatical to iDiv in 2018 and worked with scientists with expertise in automated assessments. Bringing together their different skills and expertise, the researchers assessed the risk of extinction for almost 14,000 orchid species – the first large-scale assessment of the conservation status of orchids. 

The researchers found that out of the 14,000 orchid species more than 4300 are possibly threatened with extinction. They were also able to identify the places where conservation efforts are most urgently needed: Madagascar, East Africa, south-east Asia, and several oceanic islands are priority areas for orchid conservation. The automated assessments identified threatened species with an accuracy of 84.3%.

Speeding up conservation assessments of all species on Earth

The researchers also examined the cases in which the automated assessments classified species differently than the IUCN Red List. “This provides information on how we can best refine the automated assessments in the future to increase their accuracy even more,” said Prof Tiffany Knight from iDiv, MLU and UFZ. “For orchids, we would need to incorporate information on species trade and local land use.” 

The automated approach the researchers applied for the orchid family may be a model for other species. In particular, the approach could be valuable for the species-rich, but poorly studied, tropical regions. Here, even preliminary assessments will be useful for informing conservation. “A particular strength of our approach is that it can be trained for other taxonomic groups or regions,” said Zizka. “By doing so, it could speed up the conservation assessment of all species on Earth.”

Kati Kietzmann

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
Alexander Zizka, Daniele Silvestro, Pati Vitt, Tiffany M. Knight. Automated conservation assessment of the orchid family with deep learning. Conservation Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13616

 

Contact:

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Dr Alexander Zizka
Evolution and Adaptation
sDiv - Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733176
Email: alexander.zizka@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Evolution and Adaptation Media Release iDiv Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS sDiv Mon, 28 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Europe’s primary forests: What to protect? What to restore? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1823.html First international assessment of the protection state of mostly ‘untouched’ forests in Europe First international assessment of the protection state of mostly ‘untouched’ forests in Europe

Halle/Berlin. An expansion of the protected areas by only about 1% would sufficiently protect most remaining primary forests in Europe. This is one of the main results of a study conducted by an international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU). The study, published in Diversity and Distribution, is the first assessment of the conservation status of Europe’s primary forests. It identifies protection gaps and areas with restoration needs to reach conservation targets. In addition, it provides valuable information how to implement the new EU Biodiversity Strategy.

Primary forests are forests without any signs of past human use and where ecological processes are not disrupted by human influence. These forests are of outstanding ecological value. They are an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage and critical for conserving forest biodiversity. In Europe, where millennia of land use have transformed forested landscapes, very few such primary forests remain, and these are mostly found in remote and relatively unproductive areas. Even if scarce and irreplaceable, many of these forests are not legally protected and continue to be logged in Europe. The newly released ‘EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030’ explicitly recognizes the intrinsic value of primary and old-growth forests and the need to protect them. The question is: Which areas should be prioritised?

An international assessment of primary forest status

A research team of scientists from 28 institutions led by Dr Francesco Sabatini (iDiv; MLU) and Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU) has now presented the very first assessment of the conservation status of primary forests in Europe. With the help of a large spatial database on where the last primary forests in Europe are found – a database that took over five years to create – the team was able to tackle three crucial questions: 1) Are the remaining primary forests representative of Europe’s forest types? 2) Where are these forests sufficiently protected? And: Where are so few primary forests left that forest restoration is needed?

Conservation challenges and opportunities in Europe

“While many primary forests are in fact well protected, we also found many regions where they are not – particularly where primary forests are still common,” said lead author Sabatini. “And in some cases, the level of protection is inadequate to ensure these forests will be conserved in the long term.”

The study also highlights that remaining primary forests are unevenly distributed across Europe. “Some regions, particularly in Scandinavia and Finland as well as Eastern Europe, still have many primary forests. But often those countries do not realize how unique their forests are at the European scale and how important it is to protect them,” explained Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU), senior author of the study. “At the same time, we were shocked to see that there are many natural forests in Europe without any remains of primary forest at all, particularly in Western Europe.”

Primary forests in Europe are in a perilous state

Overall, the study shows Europe’s primary forests are in a perilous state and their long-term protection should be a top priority. Where no primary forests are left, forest restoration is the only option. “Restoring forests to resemble and function like primary forests will take a long time, but it is attractive because such forests will not only benefit biodiversity but also store a lot of carbon and, therefore, help mitigate climate change,” said Kuemmerle. “The good news is that there is a wide range of opportunities to restore primary forests even within existing protected areas, which means that restoration efforts would not necessarily require reducing the area of forests used for timber production.”

Expanding Europe’s protected forest areas by 1% is enough

“We have calculated that even an expansion of the protected areas by only about 1% would suffice to protect most remaining primary forests in Europe,” said co-author Prof William Keeton from the University of Vermont. This would correspond to only two or three thousandths of the total European land area.

“Now is the time to be ambitious. There is a lot of momentum for forest conservation and restoration in Europe,” said Sabatini, referring to the EU’s recently released ‘Biodiversity Strategy for 2030’. “The new strategy explicitly recognizes the irreplaceable value of primary forests. Our study provides a foundation for putting this strategy into practice.”

The lead author received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 658876. 

Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Sabatini, F.M., Keeton, W.S., Lindner, M., Svoboda, M., Verkerk, P.J., Bauhus, J., Bruelheide, H., Burrascano, S., Debaive, N., Duarte, I., Garbarino, M., Grigoriadis, N., Lombardi, F., Mikoláš, M., Meyer, P., Motta, R., Mozgeris, G., Nunes, L., Ódor, P., Panayotov, M., Ruete, A., Simovski, B., Stillhard, J., Svensson, J., Szwagrzyk, J., Tikkanen, O.-P., Vandekerkhove, K., Volosyanchuk, R., Vrska, T., Zlatanov, T. & Kuemmerle, T. (2020). Protection gaps and restoration opportunities for primary forests in Europe. Divers Distrib; 00:1–17. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13158

 

Contact:

Dr Francesco Maria Sabatini
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 345 5526199
Email: francesco.sabatini@botanik.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/892.html

 

Prof Tobias Kümmerle
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Phone: +49 30 2093 9372
Email: tobias.kuemmerle@geo.hu-berlin.de
Web: https://www.geographie.hu-berlin.de/en/professorships/biogeography/people/current-people/kuemmerle

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Research TOP NEWS Media Release Tue, 15 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Chimpanzees show greater behavioural and cultural diversity in more variable environments https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1819.html Both historical and recent variation in ecological and environmental conditions are associated with... Both historical and recent variation in ecological and environmental conditions are associated with larger behavioural repertoires in wild chimpanzees

Based on a media release by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA)

Leipzig. Chimpanzee behavioural and cultural diversity has been well documented across equatorial Africa, however, the ecological-evolutionary mechanisms are not yet understood. An international team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has investigated the influence of environmental variability on the behavioural repertoires of 144 social groups. The study, published in Nature Communications, found that chimpanzees living further away from historical forest refugia, under more seasonal conditions, and found in savannah woodland rather than closed forested habitats, were more likely to exhibit a larger set of behaviours.

Behavioural flexibility enables species to adapt to uncertainty and changing ecological conditions via mechanisms such as innovation and greater cognitive capacity. Indeed, large brained species of birds or nonhuman primates often live in habitats that are highly seasonal and can sustain periodic resource shortages. Similarly, our own species is thought to have evolved an unprecedented level of behavioural flexibility in order to adapt and survive in fluctuating and unpredictable environmental conditions.

One of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, possess a number of diverse behaviours observed across a variety of contexts, that are found in some wild populations while being absent in others. These include tool use for communication, foraging on insects, algae, nuts, or honey, and thermoregulatory behaviours such as bathing in pools or using caves in extremely hot environments. Importantly, some of these behaviours also show evidence for being socially learned and are therefore considered to be cultural traditions particular to certain chimpanzee groups. This degree of behavioural variation provides a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of environmental conditions on both behavioural and cultural diversity within a single species.

Combining fieldwork with in-depth literature search

An international team of researchers led by Dr Ammie Kalan of the Pan African Programme: the Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf) at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA) and Dr Hjalmar Kühl (MPI EVA/iDiv), compiled a data set combining fieldwork conducted by the PanAf at 46 field sites, plus an in-depth literature search on chimpanzee research. For 144 chimpanzee social groups they investigated the long-standing question of under which environmental conditions chimpanzees acquire more behavioural traits. They used their unique dataset to test whether chimpanzee groups were more likely to possess a larger set of behaviours if they lived in more seasonal habitats or habitats where forest cover repeatedly changed over the last thousands of years. The behaviours largely included tool use and more than half have been described as cultural in previous studies.

The authors found that both recent and historical sources of environmental variability were positively associated with chimpanzee behavioural and cultural diversity. “Chimpanzees experiencing greater seasonality, living in savannah woodland habitats and located further away from historical Pleistocene forest refugia were more likely to have a larger set of behaviours present”, describes Kalan. These results suggest that a species closely related to humans also uses behavioural flexibility to adapt to more seasonal and unpredictable environments. “Since the behaviours we examined are largely considered cultural, we could further infer that environmental variability also supports cultural diversification in chimpanzees”, says Kalan.

With respect to human evolution, behaviour is often difficult to study via the fossil record alone, therefore studies of nonhuman primates such as this one can provide us a comparative insight into the potential selection pressures that may have been significant in our own past. “Many studies suggest that environmental variation acts as an important driver for behavioural or cultural diversification in both humans and animals, but this is some of the first cross-population data within a single species to support this idea”, says Kalan.

Environmental variation as driver for diversification

The study has also demonstrated the great potential of a cross-population research approach and it is very likely that it will continue to provide fascinating insights into the emergence of chimpanzee population diversity. “While we have learned a lot about the relationship between environmental variability and chimpanzee behavioral diversity in this study, there may be other demographic and social factors that have also played an important role in the process of behavioral diversification”, says Kühl. “With continued efforts to study and compare chimpanzee populations at large numbers, I am convinced that many more exciting discoveries will be made in the future that will provide further insights into the mechanisms of behavioral diversification in chimpanzees, but that will help us to also better understand our own evolutionary history”.

The PanAf continues to collect species and behavioural annotations from their video camera traps via Chimp&See. At this platform anyone can watch the PanAf videos from across the chimpanzee range, and by classifying the species and behaviours they observe, contribute to the growing PanAf data set.

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Kalan, A. K., Kühl, H .S. et al. (2020): Environmental variability supports chimpanzee behavioural diversity. Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18176-3

 

Original press release by the MPI EVA

 

Contact:

Dr Ammie Kalan
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-205
Email: ammie_kalan@eva.mpg.de

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat TOP NEWS Mon, 14 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Bending the curve of biodiversity loss https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1815.html How biodiversity could be preserved globally without sacrificing necessary production output How biodiversity could be preserved globally without sacrificing necessary production output

Based on a press release by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Laxenburg/Leipzig. Ambitious, integrated action combining conservation and restoration efforts with a transformation of the food system. This is the recipe for turning the tide of biodiversity loss by 2050 or earlier, a new study led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) with participation of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) suggests. Using multiple models and scenarios, the team investigated whether and how it might be feasible to improve the status of biodiversity while at the same time complying with other sustainability targets related to land use. The study was published in Nature and forms part of the latest WWF Living Planet Report.

Biodiversity – the variety and abundance of species, along with the extent and quality of the ecosystems they call home – has been declining at an alarming rate for many years due to human activity. While ambitious targets have been proposed in many different policy processes, practical issues such as feeding the Earth’s growing human population could make reaching such targets a challenge. The reason is that nature conservation and food production compete for the same areas. 

A new study conducted by an international team of scientists led by IIASA and with participation of iDiv for the first time sets out to explore policy targets as ambitious as a reversal in global biodiversity trends and shed light on what integrated future pathways to achieving this goal might entail.

“We wanted to assess in a robust manner whether it might be feasible to bend the curve of declining terrestrial biodiversity due to current and future land use, while avoiding jeopardizing our chances to achieve other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” explains study lead author and IIASA researcher David Leclère. “If this were indeed possible, we also wanted to explore how to get there and more specifically, what type of actions would be required, and how combining various types of actions might reduce trade-offs among objectives and instead exploit synergies.”

Using multiple models and newly developed scenarios to explore how addressing these elements in an integrated way might help reach biodiversity targets, the study provides key information on pathways that could materialize the 2050 vision of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – “Living in harmony with nature”. For global trends of terrestrial biodiversity as affected by land-use change to stop declining and start recovering by 2050 or earlier, the researchers say that action is needed in two key areas:

  1. Bold conservation and restoration efforts together with increased management effectiveness, will have to rapidly be stepped up: The study assumes that protected areas quickly reach 40% of global terrestrial areas. This should happen in tandem with large efforts to restore degraded land (reaching about 8% of terrestrial areas by 2050 in the study scenarios) and land use planning efforts that balance production and conservation objectives on all managed land. Without such efforts, declines in biodiversity may only be slowed down rather than halted and any potential recovery would remain slow.
  2. Food system transformation: As bold conservation and restoration efforts alone will likely be insufficient, additional measures are needed to address global pressures on the food system. Efforts to bend the curve of global terrestrial biodiversity include reduced food waste, diets that have a lower environmental impact, and further sustainable intensification and trade.

Integrated action would however need to be taken in both areas simultaneously to bend the biodiversity loss curve upward by 2050 or earlier.

In a scenario with increased conservation and restoration efforts alone, almost half of biodiversity losses estimated in the counterfactual business-as-usual scenario could not be avoided. A bending was not observed for all models, and when it did occur, it was often only in the second half of the 21st century. In addition, the researchers found that bold conservation and restoration efforts alone might increase the price of food products, thereby potentially hampering future progress on eliminating hunger.

Conversely, scenarios that combined increased conservation and restoration efforts with efforts to transform the food system showed that opportunities for ambitious conservation and restoration efforts were larger, and potential adverse food security impacts defused, thereby securing a bending of global trends in global terrestrial biodiversity as affected by land use change by 2050.

“Finally, such transformative change in food and land use systems would also deliver significant co-benefits,” says Carsten Meyer, iDiv researcher and coauthor of the study. “For example, this would significantly contribute to ambitious climate-change mitigation targets, reduced pressure on water resources, reduced excess of reactive nitrogen in the environment, and health benefits.”

As the CBD is currently developing a new Strategic Biodiversity Plan to 2030, the study’s findings are directly relevant to on-going negotiations at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Our results can be regarded as a very positive message to current negotiations about new biodiversity targets,” says Meyer. “At the same time, they show clearly, that this cannot possibly be achieved through classical conservation instruments such as ecosystem protection and restoration alone, but will additionally require extensive supply-side and demand-side measures in the food and bioenergy sectors to effectively reduce their total land footprints, especially in highly biodiverse regions.”

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Leclere D, Obersteiner M, Barrett M, Butchart SHM, Chaudhary A, De Palma A, DeClerck FAJ, Di Marco M, et al. , incl. Meyer, C.  (2020). Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2705-y

 

Contact:

Dr Carsten Meyer
Head of Junior Research Group Macroecology and Society
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733238
Email: carsten.meyer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/371.html

 

David Leclère
Research Scholar
IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program
Phone: +43 2236 807 597
Email: leclere@iiasa.ac.at

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Macroecology and Society Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 09 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
ERC Starting Grant for iDiv junior scientists Dr Martin Mascher https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1809.html Based on a media release by the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research...

Based on a media release by the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)

Gatersleben: Great success for iDiv Junior Research Group head Dr Martin Mascher. The 34 years old scientist affiliated to the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) receives a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). His current research project TRANSFER will thus receive 1.5 million euros in funding over the next five years.

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. The funding, worth in total 677 million euros, will help these early-career scientists and scholars to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. The grants are part of the EU’s Research an Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Martin Mascher is head of the Junior Research Group “Domestication Genomics” at iDiv and the IPK. His ERC project TRANSFER aims at understanding the prospects of using crop wild relatives in plant breeding. Wild species related to our crops are an important reservoir of useful genetic diversity in agronomic characters. However, crossing distantly related species is extremely challenging, and wild species are not commonly used by breeders. In the TRANSFER project, Mascher and his team will work with wild relatives of barley from Patagonia (South America). Genomic and genetic studies will elucidate the molecular basis of exceptional salt tolerance in these species and probe their transferability into domesticated barley.

“The success in the ERC scheme is a great recognition of my recent work on cereal genomics,” , says Mascher. “I am looking forward to continue in the coming years the successful collaboration with so many colleagues at IPK.”

 

Contact:

Dr Martin Mascher
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 39482 5243
Email: mascher@ipk-gatersleben.de

 

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Media Release iDiv TOP NEWS Domestication Genomics iDiv Members Thu, 03 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Awareness raising alone is not enough https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1807.html Nature conservation policy too rarely succeeds in changing people's behaviour Nature conservation policy too rarely succeeds in changing people's behaviour

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

It is a well-known problem: too rarely do nature conservation initiatives, recommendations or strategies announced by politicians lead to people really changing their everyday behaviour. A German-Israeli research team led by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has investigated the reasons for this. According to the team, the measures proposed by politicians do not sufficiently exploit the range of possible behavioural interventions and too rarely specify the actual target groups, they write in the journal Conservation Biology.

The protection of pollinating insects is a major issue in international nature conservation policy. Stirred up by scientific findings on high population losses of insect groups such as bees or butterflies, which, for example, affect pollination services in agriculture, Europe is putting insect protection at the forefront of environmental policy. Many governments in Europe have presented national strategies to ensure that pollinators are maintained. A team of researchers from UFZ, iDiv and Technion - Israel Institute of Technology analysed the available eight national strategy papers to protect pollinators in terms of behavioural change interventions. The result: "Nature conservation policies to preserve pollinators are often too ineffective in this respect and change little in people's behaviour," says first author and environmental psychologist Dr Melissa Marselle, who is conducting research at the UFZ and iDiv on the impact of biodiversity on human health. 

The scientists coded around 610 behavioural measures in the strategy papers. Using the "Behaviour Change Wheel" theory, which originates from health psychology and integrates 19 different behavioural models, the scientists categorized the behavioural measures for pollinator conservation into the nine different types of interventions - i.e. measures that could change people's behaviour. According to this, most of the 790 or so behavioral measures for pollinator conservation (23 percent) can be assigned to the behaviour change interventions of education and awareness raising, followed by structural measures such as planting hedges, sowing flower strips in fields or creating green spaces in the city (19 percent).

Stronger interventions like taxes are not an option in current pollinator conservation policies

Only around four percent of the behavioural measures for pollinator conservation can be summarized under the intervention of modeling, for example, peer-to-peer learning or the use of best-practice examples from farmers who work in exemplary fashion. Other little-mentioned behavioural interventions for pollinator conservation were incentive systems for farmers or municipalities (three percent) and statutory regulations (two percent). Interventions that create a financial cost to discourage a certain behaviour, such as additional taxes on the use of pesticides, did not appear in any of the policy papers for pollinator conservation. 

"This shows that national biodiversity strategies focus primarily on educational and structural measures and neglect other effective instruments," says Melissa Marselle. "Educational measures to impart knowledge and to create understanding are important. But relying on education alone is not very effective if you really want to change environmental behaviour. It would be more effective to link it to a wider range of other measures." For example, clearly identifying supply chains and producer principles on labels can encourage many people to buy an organic or pollinator-friendly products - even at a higher price. Stronger financial incentives for farmers who operate sustainably would also be effective, and the certification of sustainable buildings could be linked to the use of pollinator-friendly plants as flower beds. Taxes and additional costs for consumers also ensure rapid changes in behaviour: In the UK, for example, a compulsory levy on the purchase of plastic bags has led to a decline in their use. 

Clear identification and adressing of target groups

A further shortcoming of the strategy papers was identified as the fact that in 41 percent of the behavioural measures for pollinator conservation the target groups whose behaviour needs to change were not named and specified. The objectives are often very well described, but mostly revolve around the question of how certain actions change the environment. However, it is often not defined in more detail to whom the actions are directed and who should implement them: the public, farmers or local authorities? It could be more effective to first consider what the different actors can do, with the help of behavioural researchers, and then, building on that, to consider measures to achieve certain goals. 

There are currently several important opportunities to write nature conservation strategies better. For example, the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, which the EU Commission adopted in May 2020, needs to be translated into national policies. In addition, at the next conference of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) next year in China, global biodiversity targets for the following years will be negotiated. "Against this background, it is crucial to understand how policies need to be formulated in order to achieve effective implementation of international nature conservation policies", says Prof Aletta Bonn, who heads the Department of Ecosystem Services at UFZ and iDiv with a research focus on interaction of people and nature. 
    
Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Melissa R. Marselle, Anne Turbe, Assaf Shwartz, Aletta Bonn, Agathe Colléony (2020): "Addressing behavior in pollinator conservation policies to combat the implementation gap", Conservation Biology, DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13581

 

Contact:

Dr Melissa Marselle
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733151
Email: melissa.marselle@idiv.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=43239

 

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

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Ecosystem Services Media Release UFZ News TOP NEWS Tue, 01 Sep 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Contributions of wildlife to human well-being in the scientific literature gaining in importance https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1803.html Report by Joel Methorst (iDiv, Senckenberg, Goethe University Frankfurt), yDiv doctoral...

Report by Joel Methorst (iDiv, Senckenberg, Goethe University Frankfurt), yDiv doctoral researcher

Leipzig, Frankfurt. Non-material contributions of wildlife (WCP) to human well-being are gaining attention in the scientific literature. Whereas until the end of the 20th century only negative evaluations such as health hazards were mentioned, the focus on positive influences on physical and mental health as well as on culture aspects are now becoming increasingly popular in research. These are the main findings of a new study conducted by scientists at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F) and Goethe University Frankfurt. The study was published in Environmental Research Letters.

For many people, interactions with wildlife are part of their daily lives. For example, bird feeding is a popular activity in many households and people enjoy watching wild animals when they spend time in nature. People are also willing to travel far to see rare or charismatic species. However, wildlife encounters do not only create positive experiences for people. In many countries, wildlife is rather connected to conflicts and danger. Especially larger mammal species, for instance, can not only cause economic damage but also harm people. In this literature review, the researchers focused on summarizing studies on such positive and negative contributions of wildlife to human well-being. 

They reviewed literature – 277 studies published between 1940 and 2019   of these so-called non-material contributions of wildlife for four wildlife taxa: mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Non-material contributions of wildlife affect the immaterial or intangible dimensions of human well-being such as physical or psychological health, learning and inspiration, spirituality or people’s identities. 

Potential normative influences

In their review, the authors found that the number of studies addressing issues of wildlife and human well-being have been rising over the past decades. The majority of published articles report negative WCP. This is especially true for almost all studies published before the year 2000. Since then, research on positive WCP has been increasing, especially in the Global North (e.g. Europe, North America).

“We argue that these spatial and temporal patterns may hint towards normative influences (e.g. policy decisions) that drive the publication of negative or positive WCP,” says first author Joel Methorst, doctoral student at iDiv, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F) and Goethe University Frankfurt. 

Lack of joint, comprehensive assessments

The researchers could not find any joint assessments of positive and negative wildlife contributions for any wildlife taxa. “This is surprising since many wildlife species can have both, positive and negative WCP,” says Joel Methorst. For example, some large carnivores (e.g. lions, tigers) are charismatic and popular among tourists, but can be dangerous to local people living in the area (e.g. farmers). Likewise, many birds are enjoyed by people because of their songs, however, some birds are also considered a nuisance (e.g. doves or seagulls).

Most studies focused on either positive or negative WCP and often the effects were only examined for a single dimension of human well-being. Many of the negative WCP were related to physical health and caused by mammals or reptiles injuring or harming people. Positive WCP comprised wildlife experiences leading to beneficial effects on human psychological health, positive emotions, inspiration, spirituality or learning experiences. Many positive effects on psychological health were associated with birds. Future studies should jointly evaluate positive and negative WCP and examine multiple dimensions of human well-being to obtain a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of the human-wildlife relationship.

Channels of human-wildlife experiences

In addition, the scientists also looked at the different ways how people might experience wildlife. For this purpose, they categorized each reported case of human-wildlife experiences according to four channels: Interaction, Living Within, Perceiving and Knowing. Interaction describes multisensory experiences where people physically interact with wildlife (e.g. hunting or feeding wild animals), Living Within defines the everyday, conscious or subconscious, contact with wildlife in areas in which a person lives, Perceiving is the remote sensory interaction with wildlife (e.g. seeing, smelling, touching, hearing), and Knowing describes the metaphysical connection between humans and wildlife that arises through thinking or remembering). Interaction and Knowing were most often reported in the literature while Living Within was least often studied.

“The various influences on the scientific assessment concepts are not yet well understood. So, future research should examine potential drivers and motivations behind research questions,” says Joel Methorst.

The publication was made possible by the iDiv Open Science Publication Fund "Flexpool".

 

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

Methorst, J., Arbieu, U., Bonn, A., Böhning-Gaese, K. & Müller, T. (2020) Non-material contributions of wildlife to human well-being: a systematic review. Environmental Research Letters, 15, 093005. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab9927


Contact:

Joel Methorst
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 75421872
Email: joel.methorst@senckenberg.de

Prof Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 7542 1890
Email: katrin.boehning-gaese@senckenberg.de

 

Contact:

Joel Methorst
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F)
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 75421872
Email: joel.methorst@senckenberg.de

 

Prof Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Phone: +49 (0)69 7542 1821
Email: katrin.boehning-gaese@senckenberg.de

 

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TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services iDiv Members yDiv Mon, 31 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Leipzig's floodplain suffering from chronic disease https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1800.html Environmental Ministry of Saxony and City of Leipzig agree on measures to improve state of... Environmental Ministry of Saxony and City of Leipzig agree on measures to improve state of Leipzig’s floodplain forest

Leipzig. Leipzig’s floodplain forest is one of the largest of its kind in Central Europe. But the floodplain is currently under huge pressure – as a result not only of drought and climate change but also of human intervention. These stressors as well as revitalization measures for the large urban forest were discussed during a visit to Leipzig’s Canopy Crane. Among the participants were Professor Beate Jessel from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), Wolfram Günther from the Environmental Ministry of Saxony, Rüdiger Dittmar from the City of Leipzig and Professor Christian Wirth from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University (UL).

Intact floodplains and floodplain forests are hotspots of biodiversity and the basis of important ecosystem services: they provide habitat for a large number of plants and animals, offer recreational spaces and regulate our climate. This is why they are extremely valuable for us humans – and why they need to be protected. But there can be no floodplain without water – regular flooding is a distinct feature of this ecosystem and connects its various habitats. Leipzig’s floodplain forest, one of the largest of its kind in Central Europe, is suffering from drought, climate change and, in particular, human intervention affecting the water balance.

“Leipzig’s floodplain is suffering from a chronic disease – and that disease is called ‘the Neue Luppe river’,” said Professor Christian Wirth during the joint press conference of Saxony’s Environmental Ministry and the City of Leipzig. The artificial waterway protects the surrounding area from flooding but also drains the floodplain, prevents flooding and separates the habitats. “Today, many floodplains are no longer flooded, meadows turned into farmland and former wetlands are completely dry.”

Leipzig’s floodplain forest suffering from drought stress

The hardwood forest that defines Leipzig’s floodplain forest has been degenerating visibly for a long time. This includes the dominant role of maple trees populating the understory. Normally, this would be prevented by regular flooding as maple trees do not like standing on moist ground. However, there has been no flooding in a long time. As less light reaches the lower layers of the forest, oak seedlings can no longer grow. “If we look at the forest with its oak trees today, we actually only see the past,” said Christian Wirth. “If we were able to look into the future, we would see a maple forest.”

The effects of this development in combination with the acute drought stress of recent years are studied with the help of iDiv’s Canopy Crane and the project “Lebendige Luppe” (Living Luppe). Observations and measurements of recent years showed a significant drop in the growth rates of the three main tree species oak, ash and maple. In 2018, the leaves started to fall in July and autumn came early. An alarming sign: “In a floodplain forest, this should not happen at all, because the trees should be in contact with ground water all the time. Obviously, this is no longer the case here,” explained Christian Wirth. The researchers also found signs of significantly reduced transpiration from the canopy. For the people of Leipzig, this has some very practical consequences: the floodplain forest can no longer regulate the climate.

Under these circumstances, the trees are also no longer able to fight back diseases or natural enemies – ash and maple trees are struggling in particular. 

Ecological instead of technical flooding control

To counteract this development, a revitalization of the floodplain is required. “The floodplain needs water – dynamic water in particular and along the entire floodplain area,” said Christian Wirth. To achieve this, floodplain areas need to be connected to old waterways and a dynamic flow of the water must be enabled. The Neue Luppe river could become a flooding area; farmland should be turned into meadows.  

Saxony’s Environmental Minister Wolfram Günther understands the gravity of the situation: “To revitalize the floodplain forest, different demands and requirements need to be integrated in an overall concept with a greater environmental focus. This also requires cooperation between the municipalities involved. This is what we are working on now.” The ministry and the city plan to reconnect old waterways with the north-western part of the floodplain along with further restoration efforts at the lower part of the Weiße Elster to allow for a typical flooding and ground water situation. 

In the medium term, Saxony’s Environmental Ministry aims to integrate existing projects, such as “Lebendige Luppe”, into an overall concept for the development of Leipzig’s floodplain landscape including the entire floodplain area of the Elster and Luppe rivers in Saxony. One thing is for sure: while immediate action is needed right now, it will take years until nature has recovered. “If we do not solve this issue, we will suffer from it in many ways,” said Christian Wirth.

Kati Kietzmann


External links
Auwaldstation Leipzig
Project "Lebendige Luppe"

 

Contact:

Prof Christian Wirth
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig / Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena
Head of the Department for Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity at Leipzig University
Phone: +49-341-97-38591
Email: cwirth@uni-leipzig.de
Web: https://biologie.biphaps.uni-leipzig.de/en/institut/ag/systematic-botany-and-functional-biodiversity/people/christian-wirth/

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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TOP NEWS iDiv Media Release Fri, 28 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Effectiveness of primate conservation measures mostly unproved https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1797.html Evidence-based conservation is key to curb primate population declines Evidence-based conservation is key to curb primate population declines

Leipzig/Halle/Cambridge. Less than one percent of scientific literature on primates evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for the conservation of primates. That is the result of a new study compiled by a team of experts in 21 countries, led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the University of Cambridge. Despite great protection efforts, this is one of the main reasons for the dramatic decline of the populations of primate species. The study published in the journal BioScience proposes several actions to improve the evidence base for the conservation of primates.

Primates receive a lot of research attention and conservation funding compared to other taxonomic groups, owing largely to their anthropological significance and charisma. Yet, we remain unable to conserve them effectively. To date, about 60 percent of primate species are threatened with extinction and 75 percent have declining populations. 

The authors of the new study ascribe this paradox to the severe lack of evidence for effective conservation of the world’s primates. Compiled by a team of 59 primate researchers and practitioners, as well as scientists from the Conservation Evidence Initiative in Cambridge, the study examined roughly 13,000 primate studies. Only 80 of these studies investigated the effectiveness of primate conservation interventions, which is very few compared to other taxa. In addition, only 12 percent of threatened primates and only 14 percent of all primate species recognized today were covered by these intervention studies. 

Primate researchers mainly focused on a few charismatic species and regions

Intervention studies focused on large-bodied primates and Old World monkeys, particularly great apes, but left out entire families, such as tarsiers and night monkeys. “Whether a species was threatened or not played no significant role for the scientists in the choice of their studied species,” said Dr Jessica Junker from iDiv, MLU and MPI-EVA, who led the research effort together with Dr Silviu Petrovan from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. “We therefore lack the evidence-based information necessary to effectively protect and manage many vulnerable species.”

In addition to the taxonomic biases, the authors also found that studies were biased towards specific geographic regions and interventions. More specifically, less than half (41 percent) of the 162 possible primate conservation interventions identified by primate experts were evaluated quantitatively. 

Even those studies in which tests on the effectiveness of measures had been carried out failed in most cases (79 percent) to provide evidence of effective protection of primates. This was due to studies lacking quantitative data, difficulties in undertaking post-implementation monitoring of populations or individuals, or implementing several interventions at once. “The fact that so many measures are implemented without knowing whether they will work at all is an absolutely alarming result, considering the vulnerability of this group of species,” said Petrovan. “Ideally, studies should identify the most effective interventions for all primate conservationists.”

Systematic evaluation of conservation activities for primates is difficult

The problem of proving the effectiveness of primate protection measures is also due to the animals’ survival and reproduction strategies. “Primates tend to occur at low densities, become relatively old and have few offspring, which means that generational changes take a relatively long time. In addition, their preferred habitat in the trees makes them difficult to count. This requires innovative methods and intense monitoring over long periods, specific knowledge and hard-to-obtain long-term funding,” said Dr Hjalmar Kühl from iDiv and MPI EVA), senior author of the study.

Another disincentive for primate researchers to conduct evaluations for primate conservation actions is that publishing these can be extremely time- and resource-intensive and difficult to achieve in high-impact science journals, especially when they show that a conservation action was not effective. 

Measures proposed to improve knowledge

The authors propose several actions to improve the evidence base for primate conservation, including raising resources for intervention-effectiveness testing and publication, developing guidelines for primate conservation interventions, shifting the research focus on threatened species, understudied regions and seeking long-term collaborations with stakeholders.

“The declines of many primate species highlight the urgent need for funding and swift action,” said Kühl. “If we are to prevent imminent extinctions and ensure the survival of viable primate populations in the long term in a cost-effective manner, we need to adopt an evidence-based approach to primate conservation.”

Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:

(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)

J. Junker, S. O. Petrovan, V. Arroyo-Rodríguez, R. Boonratana, D. Byler, C. A. Chapman, D. Chetry, S. M. Cheyne, F. M. Cornejo, L. Cortés-Ortiz, G. Cowlishaw, A.P. Christie, C. Crockford, S. de la Torre, F. R. de Melo, P. Fan, C. C. Grueter, D. C. Guzmán-Caro, E. W. Heymann, I. Herbinger, M. D. Hoang, R. H. Horwich, T. Humle, R. A. Ikemeh, I. S. Imong, L. Jerusalinsky, S. E. Johnson, P. M. Kappeler, M. C. M. Kierulff, I. Koné, R. Kormos, K. Q. Le, B. G. Li, A. J. Marshall, E. Meijaard, R. A. Mittermeier, Y. Muroyama, E. Neugebauer, L. Orth, E. Palacios, S. K. Papworth, A. J. Plumptre, B. M. Rawson, J. Refisch, J. Ratsimbazafy, C. Roos, J. M. Setchell, R. K. Smith, T. Sop, C. Schwitzer, K. Slater, S. C. Strum, W. J. Sutherland, M. Talebi, J. Wallis, S. Wich, E. A. Williamson, R. M. Wittig, H. S. Kühl (2020). Severe Lack of Evidence Limits Effective Conservation of the World’s Primates. BioScience, DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biaa082

 

Contact:

Dr Jessica Junker
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733123
Email: jessica.junker@idiv.de

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat Media Release Wed, 26 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Ecologists put biodiversity experiments to the test https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1792.html Findings from experimental sites are reliable. Findings from experimental sites are reliable.

Based on a media release of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre 

Leipzig/Frankfurt/Bern. Much of our knowledge of how biodiversity benefits ecosystems comes from experimental sites. These sites contain combinations of species that are not found in the real world, which has led some ecologists to question the findings from biodiversity experiments. But the positive effects of biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems are more than an artefact of experimental design. This is the result of a new study led by an international team of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), the University of Bern and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre. For their study, they removed ‘unrealistic’ communities from the analysis of data from two large-scale experiments. The results that have now been published in Nature Ecology & Evolution show that previous findings are, indeed, reliable.

To most it might not matter much if a handbag is a costly original or an affordable counterfeit, but when it comes to nature, imitations could be a whole other matter. Much of what we know about the consequences of biodiversity loss for the ecosystem functions that support life has been gathered from biodiversity experiment sites in which vegetation types of differing plant species richness are created to imitate biodiversity loss. However, the insights gained here have been repeatedly questioned because the design of such experiments includes vegetation types that are rare or non-existent in the real world. “Previously, there was little information on how much the plant communities in biodiversity experiments quantitatively differ from those in the real world. We simply did not know what impact such differences might have on the conclusions drawn from the experiments," said lead author Dr Malte Jochum, researcher at iDiv and UL and previously at the University of Bern.

A collaborative and international study has now put these counterfeits of nature to the test. The researchers compared the vegetation of two of the largest and longest-running grassland biodiversity experiments globally with equivalent ‘real-world’ sites. One of the sites investigated is the Jena Experiment in Germany. It was compared to semi-natural grasslands nearby and a large set of scientifically monitored agricultural sites across Germany, known as the Biodiversity Exploratories.

“We first looked at the sites to see how much they differ in terms of how many species they had, how related they were and what types of functional properties were seen. To our surprise the experimental sites turned out to be much more varied than the real world and to have certain types of vegetation which you would find not in the wild. At the Jena Experiment only 28 per cent of the experimental plots could be considered similar enough to the natural vegetation that we could class them as realistic,” said Dr Peter Manning, co-author of the study and researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre.

Next, they compared the results of the entire biodiversity experiments to a subset of the experimental data that contained only the realistic plots. “Remarkably, the results hardly changed. For ten out of twelve relationships between species richness and ecosystem functioning, the results do not differ significantly between all experiment sites and the subset of only the realistic ones. This suggests that the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function seen in these experiments is likely also operating in the more complex real world,” explained Jochum.

The researchers conclude that their results show the validity of insights about the effects of biodiversity loss gained by investigating biodiversity experiment sites. “In recent years the public have become increasingly aware that biodiversity underpins the Earth's life support systems and that its loss threatens humanity. What they might be less aware of is debate among the scientific community about just how important a role biodiversity plays. By resolving a long-running debate these results give us even greater confidence that biodiversity really is a major player, and that conserving it is essential if we are to live well in the future,” Manning said.

This research was conducted in collaboration with researchers of the following research institutions of the iDiv Consortium: Leipzig University, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Malte Jochum, Markus Fischer, Forest Isbell, Christiane Roscher, Fons van der Plas, Steffen Boch, Gerhard Boenisch, Nina Buchmann, Jane A. Catford, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Anne Ebeling, Nico Eisenhauer, Gerd Gleixner, Norbert Hölzel, Jens Kattge, Valentin H. Klaus, Till Kleinebecker, Markus Lange, Gaëtane Le Provost, Sebastian T. Meyer, Rafael Molina-Venegas, Liesje Mommer, Yvonne Oelmann, Caterina Penone, Daniel Prati, Peter B. Reich, Abiel Rindisbacher, Deborah Schäfer, Stefan Scheu, Bernhard Schmid, David Tilman, Teja Tscharntke, Anja Vogel, Cameron Wagg, Alexandra Weigelt, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Wolfgang Wilcke, Peter Manning (2020): The results of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments are realistic. Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1280-9

 

Contact:

Dr Malte Jochum
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733173
Email: malte.jochum@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Experimental Interaction Ecology Media Release iDiv iDiv Members Research TOP NEWS Mon, 24 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Does city life make bumblebees larger? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1788.html New study suggests it does, making them better pollinators, too. New study suggests it does, making them better pollinators, too.

Based on a media release of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

Leipzig/Halle. Does urbanisation drive bumblebee evolution? A new study by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) provides an initial indication of this. According to the study, bumblebees are larger in cities and, therefore, more productive than their rural counterparts. In Evolutionary Applications, the research team reports that differences in body size maybe caused by the increasingly fragmented habitats in cities. 

Over the last 200 years, the habitat of bumblebees and other insects has changed dramatically. Now they are less likely to live in rural areas but more likely to be surrounded by roads and concrete walls. “Living in a city can have both benefits and disadvantages for bumblebees. One the one hand, residential gardens and balconies, allotment gardens, botanical gardens and city parks provide rich food sources for bumblebees. On the other hand, cities are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas. In addition, impervious surfaces, streets and large buildings create considerably smaller habitats that are isolated from one another. These might pose a challenge to bumblebees,” said Dr Panagiotis Theodorou from the Institute of Biology at MLU, who led the research at MLU and iDiv. 

The team of biologists at MLU wanted to find out whether urbanisation is associated with shifts in bumblebee body size with consequences on the ecosystem service of pollination they provide. The scientists collected more than 1,800 bumblebees in nine German metropolitan areas and their rural surroundings and used potted red clover plants as reference for pollination in all locations. Their work concentrated on three locally common bumblebee species: the red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius), the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) and the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). The researchers measured the body size of every bumblebee they caught and counted the number of seeds produced per red clover plant. “Our results show that bumblebees from more fragmented urban areas were larger compared to their rural counterparts, by around four percent,” said biologist Dr Antonella Soro from MLU. The results were similar for all three bumblebee species. 

Body size is linked to an organism’s metabolism, life history, space use and dispersal as well as a major determinant of species interactions, including pollination. “Larger bumblebees can see better, they have larger brains and they are better in learning and memory. They are also less likely to be attacked by predators and can travel greater distances, which is an advantage in a fragmented landscape such as the urban one. In addition, large bumblebees visit more flowers per flight and are capable of depositing a higher number of pollen grains on stigmas, which makes them better pollinators,” said Soro. This might be the explanation of the positive relationship between body size and pollination documented by the researchers. The study gives an indication that the severity of habitat fragmentation could impact a bumblebee’s body size and thus also indirectly influence pollination. According to Theodorou, there are still a lot of open questions regarding the effects of urban-related environmental changes on bees and pollination. Therefore, the team points to the importance of further studies to better understand the evolutionary responses of bees to urbanisation, information that can help improve urban planning.


This research was supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)

Theodorou P., Baltz L. M., Paxton R. J. & Soro A. Urbanisation is associated with shifts in bumblebee body size, with cascading effects on pollination. Evolutionary Applications (2020). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.13087

 

Contact:

Dr Panagiotis Theodorou
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49 345 55 26511
Email: panagiotis.theodorou@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.zoologie.uni-halle.de/allgemeine_zoologie/staff/panagiotis_theodorou/

 

Dr Antonella Soro
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 345 55 26504
Email: antonella.soro@zoologie.uni-halle.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Research MLU News TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 17 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Are tipping points suitable concepts for developing environmental policies? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1790.html Umfangreiche Datenanalyse zeigt: Schwellenwerte aus Umweltdaten kaum ablesbar. Large data analysis reveals pitfalls of focussing on abrupt ecoysystem changes

Based on an media release of Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg

Oldenburg/Leipzig/Halle. Many policies tackling the consequences of global environmental change rely on the concept of tipping points: If an impact, such as biodiversity loss, becomes too large, an ecosystem might flip into a different often less desirable state. However, a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution and led by an international team of scientists from the University of Oldenburg, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and other research institutions finds little evidence for thresholds. When focussing on tipping points, scientists and policy makers may thus risk overlooking the negative impact of gradual changes on ecosystems – with potentially disastrous consequences.

Over the past years, many ecological case studies have been published that indicate the tipping behaviour of ecosystems. For example, coral reefs may switch into an algae-dominated stage if eutrophication is large enough to reduce the proportion of corals. The idea of using a threshold as an indicator of ecosystem change to a pressure is analogous to set of warning lights: so long as the light is green things are ok, but a yellow light would be a warning that the system is about to change to an undesirable state (red light). This is why policy makers increasingly rely on thresholds to draft strategies for sustainably safeguarding ecosystems. But what if we wait for the yellow light – but it does not exist? This might mean we do not notice the gradual transitioning of the green light towards red.

The team of researchers therefore wanted to find out whether threshold levels can be identified from available environmental data at all or, even better, whether they can be predicted for different drivers of environmental change. “In order to develop environmental policies we need a general guideline,” says Prof Dr Helmut Hillebrand, director at the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg and iDiv Member. “But the problem is, that thresholds might be hard to detect in natural ecosystems when the anthropogenic change hasn’t been large enough yet. And we can’t determine thresholds for each process in each ecosystem.”

To get a better overview of how ecosystems respond to change, the scientists turned to experimental data derived from already published synthesis efforts that look at the consequences of present-day but also future pressures, such as increased CO2 or nutrient levels. They also assessed the functional responses of the ecosystems, such as changes in the cycling of elements or the production of biomass. In total the authors used information from 36 meta-analyses, which cover 4601 unique field experiments on natural or close-to-natural ecological communities. 

Based on this data, the authors calculated how strongly a system responded to pressure and tested whether the magnitude of response related to the strength of pressure. If there was a certain amount of pressure where extraordinarily strong responses started to occur, this would then indicate the presence of thresholds.

“The results of this analysis were stunning,” says Hillebrand. Whereas the vast majority of the 36 meta-analyses found that the strength of pressure affected the response magnitude, only very few (3 out of 36) showed statistical evidence for threshold transgression. However, the fact that thresholds did not emerge could still mean two things: The thresholds are either truly absent or they exist but remain undetectable by the statistical approach applied for this study.

“But if they are hard to measure, then even when they exist, they may be a poor indicator to use for telling when an ecosystem is in trouble because there are many ways that ecosystems can change in undesirable ways that do not have a clear threshold,” says Prof Dr Stan Harpole, head of Physiological Diversity at iDiv and UFZ and professor at MLU. “This is what our study showed: that thresholds were not easily detectable but that most of the ecosystem responses to pressures were large.”

The statistical analyses of the data demonstrate that responses to even the smallest change can be large. “If we wait to see clear tipping points in response to any of the major human-induced environmental changes such as warming or biodiversity change, we risk overlooking the small gradual changes which sum up to a shifting baseline over time, that is a shift in the perception of what a healthy ecosystem looks like,” Hillebrand adds. In his view, scientists and policy makers should therefore rather focus on the size and lifetime of random fluctuations and their possible consequences to be able to act according to the precautionary principle.


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Helmut Hillebrand, Ian Donohue, W. Stanley Harpole, Dorothee Hodapp, Michal Kucera, Aleksandra M. Lewandowska, Julian Merder, Jose M. Montoya and Jan A. Freund. Thresholds for ecological responses to global change do not emerge from empirical data. Nature Ecology and Evolution (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1256-9

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Helmut Hillebrand
Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity
Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
Phone: +49 441 798-8102
Email: helmut.hillebrand@uol.de

 

Prof Dr Stan Harpole
Head of Physiological Diversity
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733171
Email: stan.harpole@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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UFZ News MLU News Research iDiv Members Physiological Diversity iDiv TOP NEWS Mon, 17 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Land-use change disrupts wild plant pollination https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1782.html Highly specialised plants particularly at risk. Highly specialised plants particularly at risk.

Leipzig/Halle. Human changes to the environment have been linked to widespread pollinator declines. New research published in Nature Communications shows that intensive land use will further decrease pollination and reproductive success of wild plants, especially of those plants that are highly specialised in their pollination. An international team of scientists led by researches from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) performed a global data analysis that provided conclusive evidence of the links of human land use and pollination of plants.

Plants provide resources including food and shelter to all other living organisms on earth. Most plants need pollinators to reproduce, which is why mounting research showing widespread pollinator declines is concerning. Despite concerns we are facing a pollination crisis, we do not know which types of plants will be most affected by pollinator declines and under which conditions declines in plant reproductive success are to be expected. 

Changes in land-use are the leading threat to plants and pollinators. However, different groups of pollinators may have different responses to changes in land-use. For example, some farming practises may increase honeybee abundance on the one hand but reduce the abundance of other pollinators such as wild bees and butterflies on the other hand. Dr Joanne Bennett, who led the research as a postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and MLU and is now working at the University of Canberra, said: “Plants and their pollinators have evolved relationships over millions of years . Humans are now changing these relationships in just a few years.”

A global data set on land use and pollen limitation

To link land use to pollen limitation, an international team of researchers set out to compile a global dataset that quantified the degree to which pollen limits plant reproductive success. For this, they analysed thousands of published pollen supplementation experiments – experiments that estimate the magnitude of pollen limitation by comparing the number of seeds produced by naturally pollinated flowers with flowers receiving hand supplemented pollen. Joanne Bennett said: “If naturally pollinated plants produce less fruits or seeds than plants of that have received additional pollen by hand then the reproduction of that plant population is limited – this is called pollen limitation. In this way, pollen limitation experiments provide an unparalled opportunity to link plant reproductive function to the health of pollination services.”

It was almost 20 years ago when Prof Dr Tiffany Knight, Alexander von Humboldt professor at MLU and head of the Spatial Interaction Ecology research group at iDiv and UFZ, started to compile the first data sets. Supported by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, Knight and Bennett took the project to a new level by forming a group of 16 experts from all over the world to expand the dataset and generate new ideas. The researchers started with 1,000 experiments on 306 plant species from Europe and North America. To date, it includes data from over 2,000 experiments and more than 1,200 plants and has a more global distribution. Tiffany Knight said: “One of the most rewarding components of this research has been the collaboration with the international team, and the inclusion of studies published in languages other than English.”

Specialists and plants in intensely used landscape highly pollen limited

Ultimately, this data allowed for a global meta-analysis, which showed that wild plants in intensely used landscapes, such as urban areas, are highly pollen limited. The researchers found that plants that are specialized in their pollination are particularly at risk of pollen limitation, but this varies across the different land-use types and is based on which pollinator taxa they are specialized on. For example, plants specialised on bees were less pollen limited in agriculturally managed lands than those specialized on other pollinator types. This could be because domesticated honey bees support the pollination of wild plants in these lands.  

The results show conclusively that intensive land use is linked to lower plant reproductive success due to lower pollination success. This suggests that future land-use change will decrease the pollination and reproductive success of plants, and can cause plant communities to become more dominated by species that are generalized in their pollination. 


This study was supported by sDiv (working group: sPlat). iDiv's synthesis center sDiv organizes working group meetings where 10 to 20 national, international scientists and iDiv researchers work together on scientific issues.

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
Joanne M. Bennett, Janette A. Steets, Jean H. Burns, Laura A. Burkle, Jana C. Vamosi, Marina Wolowski, Gerardo Arceo-Gómez, Martin Burd, Walter Durka, Allan G. Ellis, Leandro Freitas, Junmin Li, James G. Rodger, Valentin Ştefan, Jing Xia, Tiffany M. Knight, Tia-Lynn Ashman (2020). Land use and pollinator dependency drives global patterns of pollen limitation in the Anthropocene. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17751-y


Related links
The Pollination Time Bomb - blog post by Joanne Bennett

 

Contact:

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Dr Joanne Bennett
University of Canberra
Email: Joanne.Bennett@canberra.edu.au

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Media Release UFZ News sDiv MLU News TOP NEWS iDiv Research Spatial Interaction Ecology Mon, 10 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Chemicals inhibit decomposition processes – by damaging biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1774.html Diversity of soil organisms has key role in the carbon cycle. Diversity of soil organisms has key role in the carbon cycle.

Leipzig, Namur. Declines in the diversity and abundance of decomposers explain reductions in plant decay rates under the influence of chemical stressors, but not added nutrients. These are the new insights of a study published in the open access journal eLife. The global meta-analysis conducted by researchers at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and the University of Namur in Belgium highlights the main anthropogenic effects on the biodiversity and functioning of ecosystems, and thus helps predicting the fate of different ecosystems around the world.

Plant litter decomposition is a major ecosystem function, linking plant biomass to carbon stocks in the soil and atmosphere, and releasing nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus that influence soil biodiversity. Global change factors such as chemical stressors and nutrient additions can change the decomposition ability of soil species and thereby the plant decay rates. Previous experiments conducted in simplified conditions have shown that biodiversity loss has detrimental effects on ecosystem processes. However, how these results apply to real-world scenarios of change in biodiversity remains unclear.
Therefore, the three researchers at iDiv, UL and the University of Namur in Belgium set out to discover if the responses of plant litter decomposition to chemical stressors and added nutrients could be explained by changes in decomposer diversity across ecosystems.

69 studies analysed the effects of chemicals and added nutrients on decomposers

“Industrial and agricultural activities can have detrimental effects on decomposer organisms,” says first author Dr Léa Beaumelle, a postdoctoral researcher, who carried out the study at iDiv and UL but now works at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food & Environment (INRAE). “They release chemical stressors such as metals and pesticides, as well as nutrients, into soil and water. These substances modify decomposer communities by affecting their diversity, abundance and metabolism,” says Beaumelle.

The team analysed the results of 69 independent studies that reported 660 observations of the effects of chemical stressors like pesticides or heavy metals or nutrient enrichment on animal and microbial decomposers and on plant litter decomposition. The researchers found that chemical stressors caused declines in the diversity and abundance of decomposers, which explained the reductions in plant decay rates. While this applied to chemical stressors in general, detrimental effects by nutrient only occurred at high levels of inputs. This suggests that when human activities decrease decomposer biodiversity, it can lead to significant effects on ecosystem functions, particularly so if inputs are high.

“Our findings could inform the design of suitable strategies to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning,” concludes senior author Prof Nico Eisenhauer, Head of Experimental Interaction Ecology at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University. “But they also show that these strategies must take different human activities into account to improve the biodiversity and functioning of ecosystems.”
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publication:
(scientists with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni bold)

Beaumelle, L., De Laender, F., Eisenhauer, N. (2020) Biodiversity mediates the effects of stressors but not nutrients on litter decomposition. eLife, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.55659

 

Contact:

Dr Léa Beaumelle
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food & Environment (INRAE)
Phone: +33 676 02 50 19
Email: lea.beaumelle@inrae.fr
Web: https://www6.bordeaux-aquitaine.inrae.fr/sante-agroecologie-vignoble/Personnel/Chercheurs-postdoctorants/Lea-Beaumelle

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Tue, 04 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Butterfly diversity in Leipzig https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1777.html Citizen Science Project "VielFalterGarten" offers workshops in Leipzig Citizen Science Project "VielFalterGarten" offers workshops in Leipzig

 

The full text is only available in German.

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Media Release TOP NEWS UFZ News iDiv Mon, 03 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Identifying the blind spots of soil biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1780.html Only few studies investigate soil biodiversity in tropical and subtropical regions. Only few studies investigate soil biodiversity in tropical and subtropical regions.

Leipzig/Halle. Soils harbour a substantial part of the world’s biodiversity, yet data on the patterns and processes taking place below ground does not represent all relevant ecosystems and taxa. For example, tropical and subtropical regions largely remain a blind spot when it comes to soil biodiversity. This is one of the results of a new study published in Nature Communications and led by scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and Leipzig University.

Soils contribute to many crucial ecosystem functions and services including climate regulation, nutrient cycling, and food production. To support their conservation, it is essential to know which macroecological patterns are related to the functioning of soil organisms – only then can we understand the effects of global change drivers. Such analyses need to represent the diversity of environmental conditions that can be found worldwide. Despite the mounting number of soil ecology studies, major gaps still exist in our understanding of soil biodiversity. 

To identify these environmental gaps, an international team of researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Leipzig University (UL), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU) and other research institutions performed an analysis of soil macroecological studies and over 17,000 sampling sites across the globe. “This effort involved researchers from all continents and we found not only large gaps in important spatial, environmental, and taxonomic representation, but also an almost complete absence of temporally explicit data,” said lead author Dr Carlos Guerra, researcher at iDiv and MLU. Given the many legal and logistic limitations related to soil macroecology, researchers often prefer to expand their number of sites rather than seeing what is happening over time. “This prevents scientists from properly assessing the effects of climate change on soil organisms and functions, but also stakeholders from taking appropriate management actions to preserve and maintain important ecosystem services, such as food and water security, for which soils are the main provider.”

Lack of data for most diverse places on Earth

In contrast to other ecosystems like aboveground terrestrial, one major issue with respect to soil biodiversity is that the data does not represent all ecosystems. Gaps exist, for example, for most tropical systems: soil biodiversity and function data is scarce or even non-existent in tropical and subtropical regions, which are among the most megadiverse places on Earth. The researcher found that temperate biomes (especially broadleaved mixed forests and Mediterranean) contain more sampling sites than tundra, flooded grasslands and savannas, mangroves, and most of the tropical biomes. “This likely reflects differences in funding availability and research focus and infrastructures across countries,” said Carlos Guerra.

At the same time, for many of the best-represented regions across the globe, there is rarely a complete picture of the hidden life below the surface. Instead, records are often dominated by one or two taxa such as bacteria and fungi. “We all heavily depend on the biodiversity under our feet – it is time to better understand this underexplored part of biodiversity,” said Professor Nico Eisenhauer, head of the Experimental Interaction Ecology research group at iDiv and UL.

Understanding what is happening – and why

In a changing world where land-use intensity, desertification, and rapid climate change are forecast to increase, it is important to understand if and to what extent biodiversity changes are happening in the soil. This is particularly relevant to assess the links between changes in biodiversity and ecosystem function: for example, whether changes in biodiversity occur because of changes in function, coupled with them, or despite them. 

The researchers highlight the need for action to facilitate a global soil monitoring system that overcomes the current limitations. “This study is a milestone revealing the status quo and informing future soil biodiversity monitoring,” said Nico Eisenhauer. “Now, the next steps require two complementary pathways: making data available and standardized for further research and globally standardized sampling. Something that we are already working to put in place,” said Carlos Guerra Ultimately, this could help track the fulfilment of global or national biodiversity targets, and support policy and decision-making. 

This research was supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)

Carlos A. Guerra, Anna Heintz-Buschart, Johannes Sikorski, Antonis Chatzinotas, Nathaly Guerrero-Ramírez, Simone Cesarz, Léa Beaumelle, Matthias C. Rillig, Fernando T. Maestre, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, François Buscot, Jörg Overmann, Guillaume Patoine, Helen R. P. Phillips, Marten Winter, Tesfaye Wubet, Kirsten Küsel, Richard D. Bardgett, Erin K. Cameron, Don Cowan, Tine Grebenc, César Marín, Alberto Orgiazzi, Brajesh K. Singh, Diana H. Wall, Nico Eisenhauer (2020). Blind spots in global soil biodiversity and ecosystem function research. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17688-2

 

Contact:

Dr. Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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MLU News Experimental Interaction Ecology iDiv Media Release Research TOP NEWS Mon, 03 Aug 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Smaller habitats worse than expected for biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1771.html New international research breaks ground for the next generation of biodiversity forcasts. New international research breaks ground for the next generation of biodiversity forcasts.

Leipzig/Halle. Biodiversity’s ongoing global decline has prompted policies to protect and restore habitats to minimize animal and plant extinctions. However, biodiversity forecasts used to inform these policies are usually based on assumptions of a simple theoretical model describing how the number of species changes with the amount of habitat. A new study published in the journal Nature shows that the application of this theoretical model underestimates how many species go locally extinct when habitats are lost. Scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) used data from 123 studies from across the world to set the path for the next generation of biodiversity forecasts in the face of habitat loss and restoration.

One of the most fundamental theories in biodiversity science describes how the number of species increases as the area of habitat increases; conversely, as habitat is destroyed, species are lost. This theory allows ecologists to predict how many species will go extinct as humans destroy natural habitats, and how many species will be protected when habitats are protected. There is a potential flaw, however, in how the theory is applied to biodiversity forecasts. 

‘Ecosystem decay’ refers to the case when some species are more likely to go extinct when habitat is lost than predicted by theory. Pioneering conservation biologist, Thomas Lovejoy, coined the term to describe results from studies in small forest islands left behind after clearcutting in the Brazilian Amazon. High levels of sunlight encroached into the normally dark forest understory, harming plants adapted to lowlight conditions. Larger animals, like monkeys and big cats, left or went locally extinct. 

A global analysis 

Using rigorous statistical tools and a database of 123 studies of habitat islands from across the world, Prof Dr Jonathan Chase, head of the Biodiversity Synthesis research group at iDiv and professor at MLU, and colleagues provide conclusive evidence that ecosystem decay is pervasive and point to a way to develop more realistic biodiversity forecasting models. Specifically, the scientists found fewer individuals, fewer species, and less even communities in samples taken from a small habitat compared to samples of the same size and effort taken from a larger habitat. 

Jonathan Chase said: “Mathematical models that are used for biodiversity forecasts typically ignore the effects of ecosystem decay. This is because we have not, until now, had systematic evidence for just how strong its effects are across ecosystems and species groups.” He added: “This means that most forecasts underestimate how much biodiversity is being lost as habitats are lost.” 

The scientists spent years compiling data from published habitat loss studies from across the world. These included data from tropical forest islands left within agricultural matrices of oil palm, coffee, chocolate and banana trees. From islands in lakes that were created during the construction of dams for hydroelectricity. And from nature reserves isolated within expanding agriculture and urbanization across the world. They included data from studies on plants and a wide variety of animals, including birds, bats, frogs and insects. In many cases, the data Chase and colleagues needed weren’t available in the published paper. “We often went back to the authors of the studies. Many of them went above and beyond, digging up old field notebooks and cracking long-expired versions of software and hardware to get us what we needed for our analyses,” said Chase.

Variation in the patterns

While the overall effect of ecosystem decay was clear, the scientists found some interesting variation in their dataset. “The quality of the land between the habitat islands, which we call the matrix, influenced just how strong the effect of ecosystem decay was,” said Dr Felix May, formerly from iDiv and now a senior scientist at Freie Universität Berlin. May added: “When the matrix was very distinct from the habitat islands, like in landscapes with intense agriculture or urbanization, ecosystem decay in the habitat islands was quite intense. However, when the matrix was less hostile, like in bird- and bee-friendly agriculture, we found fewer extinctions in the habitat islands.” 

Another co-author, Prof Dr Tiffany Knight, from MLU, UFZ and iDiv, added: “One surprise was that we found weaker ecosystem decay in studies from Europe, where habitat loss often occurred many hundreds of years ago, compared to studies from other places where losses occurred more recently.” Knight continued: “We expected the opposite, because ecosystem decay is thought to emerge slowly as species go extinct. But what we found is that different species replaced those that were lost.”

A way forward

The results of this new study could be seen as dire because it concludes that many biodiversity loss forecasts are too optimistic. But the authors prefer to see the brighter side. “What we have found is that it is possible to make more realistic projections for how biodiversity will be lost as habitats are lost,” Chase said. He added: “This will allow us to make more informed policies regarding habitat protection and provides added incentives for restoring habitats to restore the biodiversity within.”


This research was supported by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and alumni in bold)
Jonathan M. Chase, Shane A. Blowes, Tiffany M. Knight, Katharina Gerstner and Felix May (2020). Ecosystem decay exacerbates biodiversity loss with habitat loss. Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2531-2

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of research group Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/35.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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iDiv Research MLU News Biodiversity Synthesis UFZ News Spatial Interaction Ecology Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 29 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Shrinking dwarves https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1772.html As a result of climate change, soil animals are getting smaller, and their numbers are falling due... As a result of climate change, soil animals are getting smaller, and their numbers are falling due to intensive land use

Based on a press release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) 

Nowadays, life in the soil must contend with several problems at once. The biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil and thus maintain its fertility is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. To their surprise, however, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University have discovered that this effect occurs in two different ways: while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. Even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all negative consequences of climate change, the researchers warn in the trade journal eLife.

Largely unnoticed and in secret, an army of tiny service providers works below our feet. Countless small insects, arachnids and other soil dwellers are indefatigably busy decomposing dead plants and other organic material, and recycling the nutrients they contain. However, experts have long feared that these organisms, which are so important for soil fertility and the functioning of ecosystems, are increasingly coming under stress. 

On the one hand, they are confronted with the consequences of climate change, which challenges them with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. On the other hand, they also suffer from over-intensive land use. If, for example, a meadow is turned into a field, soil animals find fewer niches and food sources there. Intensive ploughing, mowing or grazing, as well as the use of pesticides and large amounts of fertilizer also have a negative effect. But what happens when soil life is faced with both challenges at the same time? “Until now, we knew almost nothing about this,” says Dr Martin Schädler from the UFZ, who is member of iDiv.

But he and his colleagues at the UFZ and iDiv have very good opportunities to pursue such complex questions. The ecologist coordinates the “Global Change Experimental Facility” (GCEF) in Bad Lauchstädt near Halle. There, researchers can simulate the climate of the future on arable and grassland plots used with varying degrees of intensity. In large steel constructions reminiscent of greenhouses without a roof or walls, they recreate a scenario that could be typical for the region between 2070 and 2100: it is about 0.6 degrees warmer than today, in spring and autumn there is ten percent more precipitation and summers are about 20 percent drier. A team led by Martin Schädler and well as doctoral student Rui Yin (UFZ) with participation of Prof Nico Eisenhauer and Julia Siebert from iDiv and Leipzig University has now investigated how these conditions affect mites and springtails. Both groups have many decomposers in their ranks, which play an important role in the nutrient cycles in the soil.

The results show that these soil animals are likely to dwindle even further due to climate change. “It is likely that not only smaller species will prevail, but also smaller individuals within the same species,” says Schädler. In any case, the examined specimens on the areas with higher temperatures and changed precipitation were on average about ten percent smaller than on the comparable areas with today’s climate. Biologists have so far been familiar with such connections between body size and climate primarily in larger animals. For example, bear species in warm regions of the Earth are significantly smaller than the polar bear found in the Arctic. This is due to the fact that a small body has a comparatively large surface area over which it can release heat - which is an advantage in the tropics, but easily leads to cooling in polar regions. In poikilothermal animals such as insects, high temperatures also stimulate metabolism and developmental speed.

This creates new generations faster, but they remain smaller,” explains Martin Schädler. If the mites and springtails from the plots with an altered climate are weighed, the total weight is therefore lower in comparison with those from the unaffected areas. But this is not good news. After all, these animals’ decomposition performance also depends on this biomass. Less total weight therefore also means that nutrient recycling is slowed down. According to the experiment, over-intensive land use can also trigger a very similar effect. This is because the biomass in the soil also decreases as a result. “Interestingly, however, there is another process behind this,” says Martin Schädler, summarising the most important result of the study. “Unlike the climate, use does not reduce the size of the animals, but their density.” For example, around 47 percent fewer mites and springtails lived on GCEF plots cultivated conventionally compared with plots extensively used as meadows. 

“The fascinating and sobering thing about it is that the effects of climate and use hardly influence each other,” says the ecologist. Until now, many experts had hoped that eco-friendly agriculture could offer some kind of insurance against the negative consequences of climate change. After all, organic farming generally leads to a more diverse community in fields and grassland. However, it is thought that this makes such ecosystems less susceptible to climatic disturbances than conventionally used areas.

Yet when it comes to maintaining the performance of soil animals, this strategy does not seem to work: changes in temperature and precipitation reduce their biomass regardless of cultivation. “So not everything that threatens to break down as a result of warming can be saved by environmentally friendly land use,” says Schädler in summary. In order to mitigate the consequences of climate change, it is therefore necessary to tackle greenhouse gases directly - and as quickly as possible. “We can’t assume that we’ll come up with anything else.”

 

Original publication: 
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Rui Yin, Julia Siebert, Nico Eisenhauer, Martin Schädler (2020). Climate change and intensive land use reduce soil animal biomass via dissimilar pathways. eLife, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.54749

 

Contact:

Dr habil Martin Schaedler
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 345 55 85 307
Email: martin.schaedler@ufz.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=38623

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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iDiv Members Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS UFZ News Tue, 28 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Clear strategies needed to reduce bushmeat hunting https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1764.html Disease prevention and protection of species require differentiated strategies. Disease prevention and protection of species require differentiated strategies.

Leipzig. Extensive wildlife trade not only threatens species worldwide but can also lead to the transmission of zoonotic diseases. It encompasses hundreds of species with significant differences in their conservation status and associated disease risk. However, current strategies to mitigate the wildlife trade often neglect these differences. An international research team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) shed new light on the motivations why people hunt, trade or consume different species. The research has been published in the journal People and Nature and shows that more differentiated solutions are needed to prevent uncontrolled disease emergence and species decline.

Covid-19 and the associated global economic, health and societal distortions have shed light on the alarming threat of infectious diseases emerging at an increasing rate. Around 60 percent of emergent infectious diseases are zoonotic, originating in animals; among the most prominent are SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV and Covid-19. More than two-thirds of those originate in wild species. Many voices have called for higher restrictions or even a blanket ban on the wildlife trade. This demand is also fuelled by the devastating effects of unsustainable hunting that threatens hundreds of species.

However, millions of people, especially in the Global South, depend on wild meat (“bushmeat”) for their livelihoods. Hunting and consuming wild meat is a vital part of their culture. Therefore, current strategies often aim at trade regulations, rather than the enforcement of strict bans. Even though species vary in their conservation value and their associated risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases, little is known about the reasons why people choose a certain species. "In order to make wildlife trade more sustainable, to prevent uncontrolled disease emergence and species decline, it is essential to know and understand these reasons, and I was surprised how little information existed on these”, explains lead author Mona Bachmann, doctoral researcher at iDiv and MPI-EVA.

An international research team led by Mona Bachmann and Hjalmar Kühl from MPI-EVA and iDiv, studied a wildlife trading network in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Since the wildlife trade is mostly illegal, people often hesitate to share information. With the help of local, trustable informants, often hunters or bushmeat traders themselves, the researchers were able to break the ice. Around 350 hunters, 200 bushmeat traders and 1,000 bushmeat consumers provided detailed insights into the wildlife trade and contributed to one of the most comprehensive data sets for a wildlife trading network to date.

Different species, different risks

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, bushmeat trade encompasses over 500 species – from rats to elephants. Around 80 percent of the bushmeat biomass harvested in this region consists of fast-reproducing generalists like rodents, small-bodied duikers or antelopes. These species resist high levels of hunting and are a crucial component of livelihoods throughout rural areas. Replacing them with alternative animal proteins could substantially increase the exploitation of fish stocks or lead to habitat degradation to provide grazing land. Species that produce fewer offspring, like many primates, are threatened by even low levels of hunting. Since they are comparatively rare, they usually represent only a small percentage of a hunters' catch. Additionally, different risks of zoonotic disease transmission are associated with those species. In general, proximity with humans – either in the phylogenetic sense, like many primates, or in the spatial sense, like rodents in areas highly populated by humans – can increase the risk of transmitting diseases. 

Most strategies aim at reducing wild meat in general, irrespective how common a species is or how likely it will transmit diseases. However, people might use species for different purposes. If mitigation strategies neglect this fact, rare species of greater conservation relevance that contribute little to the total bushmeat biomass, like many primates or disease-prone-species, would likely be overlooked.

Why people use bushmeat and how to tackle their motivations

According to the study, preferences for bushmeat differed widely between hunters, bushmeat traders and consumers, and so does their motivation. People hunt for monetary, nutritional, educational and cultural reasons. Primates, for example, were mostly targeted by commercial hunters for profit and consumed as a luxury meat, while rodents were hunted and consumed when alternative proteins like fish or domestic meat were lacking. Interestingly, hunters and consumers who were aware of the negative ecological consequences of unsustainable bushmeat hunting targeted or consumed primates less. In contrast, bushmeat traders did not change their behaviour. 

Broadly applied mitigation approaches are often development-based, educational or cultural. The results show that these interventions may address taxa like rodents, duikers or primates differently. Also, different responses by the individual user groups of hunters, traders or consumers are to be expected.

"Up to 60 percent of the consumed meat was from rodents and only seven percent from primates," says Bachmann. "If we considered bushmeat as one generic good, we would have probably identified a lack of protein as the main reason for its use and had thus recommended development-related projects. However, primates were consumed irrespective of the availability of proteins, and economic development could even increase economic resources to purchase the desired luxury product. Hence, to protect primates, development-related strategies need to be complemented by educational strategies."

The researchers, therefore, urge policy makers to prioritize planning processes: Clear goals, like conservation, development or disease prevention, have to be set. Assessments need to identify the behaviour causing problems, the user group and its motivations first. Knowledge and tools from disciplines such as psychology or marketing may optimize campaigns.

"Scientists and practitioners in conservation often rush to find quick solutions because every delay comes at high cost," says Bachmann. "In West and Central Africa, this often leads to one-size-fits-all solutions. However, our results suggest that many conservation strategies may be tailored to fit the wrong targets. Poor planning not only hampers the effectiveness of strategies but can also cause harm and waste the already scarce resources available for biodiversity protection.” Hjalmar Kühl adds: “If we really want to solve the problem of the overexploitation of wildlife and reduce the threats associated with it, for species conservation and human well-being, we need to tackle it at its roots. We cannot continue ignoring this problem, but we need to invest resources and develop strategies that really help to create a more sustainable human-wildlife co-existence.”


Original publication

(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Mona Bachmann, Martin Reinhardt Nielsen, Heather Cohen, Dagmar Haase, Joseph A. K. Kouassi, Roger Mundry, Hjalmar S. Kuehl (2020). Saving rodents, losing primates - why we need tailored bushmeat management strategies. People and Nature. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10119

 

Contact:

Mona Bachmann
Great Ape Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPIEVA)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Phone: +493413550 240
Email: mona_bachmann@eva.mpg.de

 

Dr Hjalmar Kühl
Head of the Research Group
'Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA)
Phone: +49 341 3550236
Email: kuehl@eva.mpg.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/kuehl_hjalmar.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Sustainability and Complexity in Ape Habitat Fri, 17 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Exhibition in Leipzig puts a spotlight on pollination networks https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1767.html New exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University now open to the public. New exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University now open to the public.

Leipzig. A new exhibition at the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University gives new and unexpected insights into the world of plants and their pollinators. The collaborative project of young researchers and artists from Leipzig shows that there is much more to it than the story of flowers and bees.

Summer time is the season when gardens and balconies are in full bloom. But what would strawberries, tomatoes and others be without bees, bumblebees and many more insects to pollinate them? This is the topic of a new exhibition at Leipzig University’s Botanical Garden, open to the public from 18 July to 4 October 2020.

The exhibition was planned and organised by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). “We wanted the start of this exhibition to be in Leipzig, because this is where we live and do most of our research. We felt that this was a good way to give something back to the city,” explained Prof Dr Tiffany Knight, head of the Spatial Interaction Ecology group at iDiv, MLU and UFZ. “We are planning to show the exhibition in other places where we are doing our research as well: Romania and Finland, for example. This would be a great way to inform people there about what we are doing.”

The exhibition not only introduces common pollinating insects such as bees and bumblebees, but also other, less well-known pollinators. The hummingbird is probably the most prominent example of pollinating bird species. The focus of the exhibition is on the complex relationship of insects and plants that live in our gardens: how do these relationships evolve and what is their role in ecology? What are the effects of climate change and land use on the complex networks of pollinators and plants? “Every species – pollinator or plant – is like a thread and the relationship of those species is like a knot. Together, the threads and knots form a wonderful and stable carpet,” said Dr Demetra Rakosy, researcher at iDiv and UFZ and one of the main organisers of the exhibition. “Climate change and land-use change are like moths that feed on the carpet.” 

Examples of local initiatives and practical tips for how we can help protect our native flora and fauna round off the exhibition. Of course, these and many more aspects are not only displayed on posters. Photos, videos and art go hand in hand to show all the different facets of plants and pollinators. 

The exhibition is hosted by the Botanical Garden of Leipzig University. “Our strategy for the future emphasises the transfer of knowledge to the public. We don’t consider the Botanical Garden a large research tool, but also a place of exchange, a kind of living museum,” said Prof Dr Christian Wirth, director of the Botanical Garden. The rector of Leipzig University, Prof Dr Beate Schücking, was also pleased with the successful collaboration. "Your case, Prof Knight, is a very nice example: the international character and collaboration in the consortium – across the borders of the different states – are the strength of iDiv.”

 

Exhibition “Blüten(be)sucher: Beziehungsgeschichten aus der Natur”
(Flower seekers: the intertwined story of pollinators and plants)

Opening dates: 18 July to 4 October 2020 during regular opening hours of the Botanical Garden
Place: Botanischer Garten Leipzig, Linnéstraße 1, 04103 Leipzig


Related links

Exhibition website
www.idiv.de/events/bluetenbesucher

Botanischer Garten der Universität Leipzig
https://www.bota.uni-leipzig.de

 

Contact:

Prof. Tiffany Knight
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733158
Email: tiffany.knight@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Spatial Interaction Ecology iDiv Fri, 17 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
How many invasive species can our ecosystems tolerate? https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1762.html Alien species dramatically contribute to future biodiversity loss Alien species dramatically contribute to future biodiversity loss

Based on a press release by the University of Vienna

Even an increase in invasive alien species by 20 to 30 percent will lead to a dramatic global loss of biodiversity in the future. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by an international team of researchers led by the University of Vienna with contributions from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The current increase is mainly driven by the global transport of goods, climate change and the extent of economic growth. The study was published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Human activities intentionally and unintentionally introduce more and more species to new regions of the world - for example, via commodity transport or tourism. Some of these alien species have negative consequences for biodiversity and humans well-being, for example by displacing native species or transmitting diseases. However, while we have relatively good information on the historical spread of alien species, there is still little knowledge about their future development.

Dramatic loss of biodiversity

At the moment, it is not yet possible to generate precise predictions based on computer models as to how the spread and impact of alien species will change in the future. Therefore, expert assessments via standardized surveys are an important tool to obtain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of the spread and impact of alien species for the coming decades. The expert survey carried out in the study revealed, that an increase of 20 to 30 percent in the number of newly introduced alien species is considered sufficient to cause massive global biodiversity loss - a value that is likely to be reached soon, as the number of introduced species is constantly increasing.

Climate change and trade determine increase in alien species

Furthermore, humans are the main driver of the future spread of alien species. The experts identify three main reasons, primarily the increasing global transport of goods, followed by climate change and the extent of economic growth. The study also shows that the spread of alien species can be greatly slowed down by ambitious countermeasures.

The researchers additionally investigated the influence of the increase of alien species on different regions of the world: For example, tourism is a major driver of biological invasions in tropical and subtropical regions, while climate change favors the survival and establishment of alien species in the future, especially in polar and temperate regions.

Politics have the responsibility to act

“Our study illustrates the option space we currently have to reduce the future impacts of alien species”, says first author Dr Bernd Lenzner from the University of Vienna. The scientists believe that political decision-makers have the responsibility to act. The results form an important scientific basis for the further development of international agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals or the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“Minimizing the effect of other important global change drivers such as eutrophication and pollution also indirectly will potentially reduce species invasions and its effects”, says Dr Marten Winter, a co-author from iDiv. “Moreover, we see an urgent need to increase joint collaborations towards an exchange of spatially highly resolved monitoring data as well as across political borders coordinated alien species management.“ 


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Franz Essl, Bernd Lenzner, Sven Bacher, Sarah Bailey, Cesar Capinha, Curtis Daehler, Stefan Dullinger, Piero Genovesi, Cang Hui, Philip E. Hulme, Jonathan M. Jeschke, Stelios Katsanevakis, Ingolf Kühn, Brian Leung, Andrew Liebhold, Chunlong Liu, Hugh J. MacIsaac, Laura A. Meyerson, Martin A. Nuñez, Aníbal Pauchard, Petr Pyšek, Wolfgang Rabitsch, David M. Richardson, Helen E. Roy, Gregory M. Ruiz, James C. Russell, Nathan J. Sanders, Dov F. Sax, Riccardo Scalera, Hanno Seebens, Michael Springborn, Anna Turbelin, Mark van Kleunen, Betsy von Holle, Marten Winter, Rafael D. Zenni, Brady J. Mattsson, Nuria Roura-Pascual (2020): Drivers of future alien species impacts: An expert-based assessment. Global Change Biology 00:1–15. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15199.

 

Contact:

Dr Marten Winter
Coordinator of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

Prof Dr Ingolf Kühn
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Phone: 0345 558 5311
Email: ingolf.kuehn@ufz.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=38592

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release iDiv Members TOP NEWS Tue, 14 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Job announcement - Scientific Programmer (f-m-x) - Application deadline 03 January 2021 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1760.html Announcement Working time: 100% (39 hours per week), limited to 31 Dec 2022

Announcement

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SIE group news Wed, 08 Jul 2020 15:21:24 +0200
Root Economics – Between Do-It-Yourself Strategies and Fungal Outsourcing https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1756.html International group of researchers with iDiv participation describes the growth strategies of plant... International group of researchers with iDiv participation describes the growth strategies of plant roots

Based on a press release by Freie Universität Berlin

The formation of a plant’s root growth often depends on symbiosis with fungi. This is the main finding of an international group of researchers with members from Freie Universität Berlin (FU), the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and Wageningen University, among others, has been studying the complex belowground economy of roots. In the journal Science Advances the biologists describe the different growth strategies found in root systems and how they “collaborate” with fungi. Their findings are based on the analysis of approximately 1,800 plant species from around the world and the specific traits of their roots. The new insights will help scientists better understand “root economics” and the adaptations and exchanges that take place belowground as well as how environmental changes affect these relationships.

Through photosynthesis, plants have the ability to convert light into chemical energy and to bind carbon, the basic biochemical building block. They absorb vital substances from the soil through their roots – nutrients, minerals, and water. The authors of the study compare these metabolic processes with economic value chains. In plant economies, carbon is the main currency. Plants can invest carbon to promote organ growth, for example, to produce leaves, flowers, seeds, or roots. 

It has long been known that plants follow different growth strategies when forming their aboveground organs, especially leaves. Short-lived leaves, for example, can be produced in a relatively cost-efficient way, but can only photosynthesize and bind carbon for a limited time. Long-lived leaves, on the other hand, demand higher investments, but continue to function for a longer period. The research team led by Dr Joana Bergmann (FU) with participation of Prof Dr Alexandra Weigelt (Leipzig University, iDiv) was able to prove that root growth, too, follows similar economic principles. How roots develop and how long they live depend on a plant’s biochemical investments in carbon and energy.

However, according to the study, symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi has an especially strong influence on root traits. Many plants “outsource” their nutrients supply chain below ground to varying degrees. Fungi provide them with soil nutrients through special exchange methods. The fungi are then paid in carbon through the plant roots. The scientists discovered that the adaptations that make the symbiotic exchange with fungi have a significant effect on root traits. In addition, closely related plants tend to show similar patterns in how their roots grow.

This give-and-take relationship has adapted along evolutionary lines over time, explains Joana Bergmann, lead author of the research project. The “division of labor” between plants and fungi, she says, depends on the depends on the plants’ evolutionary history. Plants have many different growth strategies and collaborative methods – such as fungal outsourcing – that they can use to acquire the nutrients they need.

The paper is a joint effort of the working group sROOT. sDiv, the synthesis center of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), finances working group meetings with 10 to 20 international scientists to work on current scientific issues, funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118).

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv-Affiliation bold)

J. Bergmann, A. Weigelt, F. van der Plas, D. C. Laughlin, T. W. Kuyper, N. Guerrero-Ramirez, O. J. Valverde-Barrantes, H. Bruelheide, G. T. Freschet, C. M. Iversen, J. Kattge, M. L. McCormack, I. C. Meier, M. C. Rillig, C. Roumet, M. Semchenko, C. J. Sweeney, J. van Ruijven, L. M. York, L. Mommer, The fungal collaboration gradient dominates the root economics space in plants. Sci. Adv. 6, eaba3756 (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba3756

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Alexandra Weigelt
Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity
University of Leipzig
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49-341-97-38594
Email: alexandra.weigelt@uni-leipzig.de

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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iDiv Members sDiv TOP NEWS Fri, 03 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Nature data as a basis for decisionmaking in politics and society https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1757.html iDiv researchers to play a leading role in setting up National Research Data Infrastructure iDiv researchers to play a leading role in setting up National Research Data Infrastructure

Based on a press release of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved the application of a nationwide consortium of biodiversity researchers to fund a National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) of biodiversity data. The aim is to provide high-quality data, tools and infrastructures that follow the FAIR guiding principles (findability, accessibility, interoperability and reuse) in a sustainable manner. NFDI4BioDiversity is partly coordinated by researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University (FSU), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and many other iDiv partner organisations participate.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Biodiversity Informatics Unit (BDU) Fri, 03 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Scientists warn of increasing threats posed by invasive alien species https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1746.html A contribution to "World scientists’ warning to humanity: a second notice" A contribution to "World scientists’ warning to humanity: a second notice"

Based on a media release by Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

In a new study, scientists from around the world with participation of researchers from the Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) warn that the threats posed by invasive alien species are increasing. They say that urgent action is required in order to prevent, detect, and control invaders at both local and global levels.

Alien species are plants, animals and microbes that are introduced by people, accidentally or intentionally, into areas where they do not naturally occur. Many of them thrive, spreading widely with harmful effects on the environment, economy, or human health.

The study, published in Biological Reviews, was carried out by an international team of researchers from 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America. It states that the number of invasive alien species is increasing rapidly, with over 18,000 currently listed around the world. 

The researchers attribute the escalation in biological invasions to the increase in the number and variety of pathways along which species spread, and to the increasing volume of traffic associated with those pathways. They highlight the role of emerging pathways such as the online trade in unusual pets, and the transport of species across oceans on rafts of plastic. 

The study also shows how other drivers of global change, such as climate change, land-use change, alongside international trade are exacerbating the impacts of biological invasions. For example, species transported through shipping can now thrive in new regions, owing to climate warming; and the permanent opening of the Arctic Ocean with global warming is allowing marine species to move between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The paper is a part of the World scientists’ warning to humanity: a second notice initiative calling for urgent change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it.  The authors stress that biological invasions can be managed and mitigated. They point to approaches that are working around the world and make specific recommendations for improved management. For example, the introduction of more stringent border controls, including X-ray machines and detector dogs, has led to a progressive decline in the rate of fungal plant pathogens entering New Zealand.

Professor Petr Pyšek of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University in Prague, lead author of the paper, says: “As our knowledge about invasive alien species increases, the problems associated with biological invasions are becoming clearer. The threats posed by invasive alien species to our environment, our economies and our health are very serious, and getting worse. Policy makers and the public need to prioritize actions to stem invasions and their impacts.” 

Professor Ingolf Kühn, an ecologist at UFZ and iDiv says: “We summarised the pertinent knowledge on alien invasive plant and animal species in a brief review. And even if many alien species do yet have impact on the environment, some species are so harmful that immediate action is necessary to conserve our biological diversity” .

Original publication:

(Scientists with iDiv-affiliation bold)

Pyšek P., Hulme P. E., Simberloff D., Bacher S., Blackburn T. M. Carlton J. T., Dawson W., Essl F., Foxcroft L. C., Genovesi P., Jeschke J. M., Kühn I., Liebhold A. M., Mandrak N. E., Meyerson L. A., Pauchard A., Pergl J., Roy H. E., Seebens H., van Kleunen M., Vilà M., Wingfield M. J. & Richardson D. M.: Scientists’ warning on invasive alien species. Biological Reviews DOI: 10.1111/brv.12627

 

UFZ press release

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Ingolf Kühn
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Phone: 0345 558 5311
Email: ingolf.kuehn@ufz.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=38592

 

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TOP NEWS iDiv Members UFZ News Mon, 29 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Forest loss escalates biodiversity change https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1738.html New international research reveals the far-reaching impacts of forest cover loss on global... New international research reveals the far-reaching impacts of forest cover loss on global biodiversity.

Based on a media release of the University of St Andrews

Forest loss does not always lead to a decline in biodiversity but can amplify how it changes. This is one of the results of a recent study from an international team of researchers, including the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). Focussing on biodiversity data spanning 150 years and over 6,000 locations, the study, published in the journal Science, reveals that as tree cover is lost across the world’s forests, plants and animals are responding to the transformation of their natural habitats. However, these responses may be delayed by decades.

Forests support around 80% of all species living on land, from eagles and bluebells, to beetles and many more. This biodiversity provides important ecosystem services. And, importantly, some species, such as the rosalia longicorn beetle, survive best in intact old-growth forests. However, forests are being altered by human activities. For example, they are being converted to rangelands for grazing cattle, or to grow agricultural crops.

The researchers, including Dr Shane Blowes of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), investigated the impacts of forest loss on species and biodiversity over time and around the world, revealing that forest loss amplified both gains and losses in the abundance of different species as well as in the overall biodiversity.

Forest loss amplifies both gains and losses in biodiversity

“Biodiversity, the types of species like different plants and animals around the world, is always changing and the species we see on our forest walks today are likely different from the ones we saw growing up,” says lead author Gergana Daskalova of the University of Edinburgh. “Surprisingly, we found that forest loss doesn’t always lead to biodiversity declines. Instead, a loss in forest cover can amplify the ongoing biodiversity change: If a plant or animal species was declining before forest loss, its decline becomes even more severe after forest loss. The same intensification was also true for increasing species.”

This study used the BioTIME and Living Planet biodiversity databases that contain data collected by researchers working at sites around the world. Bringing together over 5 million records of the numbers of different plants and animals with information on both historic and contemporary peaks in forest loss, the researchers analysed the worldwide impacts of forest loss on biodiversity. “To get a global picture of how the planet is changing, different types of information – from observations of plants and animals on the ground through to satellite records of ecosystem change from space – had to be combined,” says Dr Isla Myers-Smith, co-senior author of the University of Edinburgh. 

Biodiversity responses may be delayed by decades

The international research team discovered both immediate and delayed effects of forest loss on ecosystems, indicating that biodiversity responses to human impacts are diverse and play out across decades. The pace at which biodiversity responds to forest loss varies from a few years, as is the case for many short-lived grasses, light-loving plants and insects, to decades for long-living trees and larger birds and mammals. For long-lived species, the effects of forest loss do not happen right away and could take decades to become apparent in the biodiversity data that scientists collect.

The findings also reveal that some tropical areas experience more forest loss now than they have ever seen in the past, resulting in declining numbers of different animal species. In North America and Europe, the greatest loss of forests often occurred centuries ago, however even the smaller amounts of forest loss in the present day led to different biodiversity responses, escalating gains in certain species and losses in others. 

“Understanding the different ways, both positive and negative, that forest loss influences biodiversity, can improve future conservation and restoration of global ecosystems. And collaborative science that integrates datasets from around the world are important for assessing both the state of the world’s forests, as well as the millions of plants and animals they support,” says Dr Shane Blowes.

 

Original publication
(iDiv scientists and alumni in bold)
Gergana N. Daskalova, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Anne D. Bjorkman, Shane A. Blowes, Sarah R. Supp, Anne E. Magurran, Maria Dornelas (2020). Landscape-scale forest loss as a catalyst of population and biodiversity change. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aba1289

 

Contact:

Dr Shane Blowes
Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733254
Email: shane.blowes@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Synthesis TOP NEWS MLU News Research iDiv Thu, 18 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Simulations: personal responsibility alone makes COVID-19 pandemic in Germany manageable – albeit at a high price https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1735.html iDiv economists combine epidemiological model with survey data for the first time

Leipzig, Hamburg, Kiel. How high would the infection and death rates be if Germany had relied solely on voluntary social distancing at the beginning of the pandemic? A new study by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the universities of Leipzig, Hamburg and Kiel shows that even purely voluntary social distancing – in order to protect ourselves and others – could stabilise the number of new infections (R0=1). However, this would mean 100 times more infections and 15 times as many deaths compared to an optimal policy of reducing social contacts. The study was recently published on a preprint server.

“This is serious – so take it seriously.” This is what Chancellor Angela Merkel said on 18 March in an unprecedented televised address, her only such address other than her annual New Year’s message. She made it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic meant exceptional contact restrictions for the population. Among other things, the measures saw schools and day-care centres shut and travel prohibited.

The number of deaths shows that Germany has handled its lockdown well. But would this have been possible with less radical restrictions? How sensible would people have been by themselves? And how would infection and death rates have developed without government intervention?

Behavioural component added to epidemiological models

To investigate just this, for the first time environmental economists at iDiv, Leipzig University and the universities of Hamburg and Kiel combined a common epidemiological model with behavioural data from a large-scale, representative survey. At the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March, the researchers had more than 3500 people throughout Germany surveyed about whether they had reduced their contact with other people, and their motives for doing so. The results were then fed into a common epidemiological model. This enabled the researchers to extend previous epidemiological approaches to include the social component of human decisions.

The survey showed that at the beginning of the epidemic, the average German reduced their contact with other people to a quarter of the normal level. About half of them did this to protect themselves, 30 per cent to protect friends and family, and 18 per cent to protect others. 

On this basis, the researchers then developed models predicting infection and death rates under different conditions: a) What kind of policy would strike an optimal balance between protecting health and maintaining a minimum level of social life? What would be the infection and death rates in this case? And how would these figures evolve in the absence of state intervention, if people restricted their contact with others purely voluntarily b) only in order to protect themselves or c) also to protect others? 

The main focus is on the question of the “social cost” of an infection. The costs of a person becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are not only the health consequences for that person, but also the increased risk of infection for everyone else. 

The scientists found that an optimal regulatory approach – one that took into account health consequences for everyone equally – would impose a drastic lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic in order to reduce physical contact, thereby virtually eradicating the virus. Subsequently, stabilising people’s contact with others at about one third of the normal, pre-pandemic level would be sufficient until a vaccination became tangible. This scenario, however, includes far more drastic measures than those actually imposed by Germany’s federal and state governments.

Voluntary social distancing for self-protection stops the pandemic, but does not go far enough

The survey showed that even without state intervention, people severely restricted their physical social contacts anyway in order to protect themselves. People would have intensified this protective behaviour as the virus spread throughout the population and people considered themselves to be at greater risk of becoming infected. As such, purely selfish behaviour in the population would have also led to a stabilisation of the infection rate (basic reproduction rate of R0=1). However, this freedom of choice would have come at a price. Compared to the optimal policy, the number of infections would have increased a hundredfold and there would be about 15 times as many deaths over the course of the pandemic. The simulations also showed that the additional motivation of wanting to protect others as well (i.e. altruistic behaviour) would result in around a third fewer infections and deaths compared to the purely selfish approach.

Risk aversion makes herd immunity unlikely

“According to our simulations, people’s fear of becoming infected is enough to cause them to limit their social contacts so much that herd immunity is unlikely in the coming years,” said Dr Jasper Meya, co-author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and Leipzig University. 

How the pandemic develops depends primarily on how people behave. “Our analyses show that, especially in the case of high numbers of infected people and thus a high risk of infection, self-protection and altruistic behaviour can already deliver a considerable portion of the social distancing needed to protect the public,” said Meya. However, the study also shows that, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, a bolder approach to social distancing saves many more lives: “If Germany had relied solely on personal responsibility in the initial weeks after mid-March, the death toll would most likely have been many times higher.”

“As environmental economists, our motivation to examine such health issues is the fact that health protection is a public good, the availability of which depends on human behaviour,” said Professor Martin Quaas, head of the Biodiversity Economics Group at iDiv and Leipzig University. As part of the sustainability debate, the group normally researches various uses of natural resources, such as fish stocks or forests, and how to protect them. “The results from our COVID-19 study also deliver important insights for the provision of other common goods – such as a stable climate or intact biodiversity, said Quaas.


Original publication: 
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Quaas, M.F., Meya, J.N., Schenk, H., Bos, B., Drupp, M.A., Requate, T. (June, 2020). The Social Cost of Contacts: Theory and Evidence for the Covid-19 Pandemic in Germany. CESifo Working Paper No. 8347, https://www.cesifo.org/en/publikationen/2020/working-paper/social-cost-contacts-theory-and-evidence-covid-19-pandemic-germany 

 

The full text is only available in German.

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TOP NEWS Biodiversity Economics Mon, 15 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Citizen Science Dialogue Forum https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1725.html Online forum to further develop citizen science strategy in Germany Online forum to further develop citizen science strategy in Germany

This event will be held in German language only. Please refer to the German press release.

 

Contact:

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Ecosystem Services iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Thu, 04 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Turning the spotlight on insects https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1720.html Only a few butterfly species appear to benefit from Natura 2000 conservation areas Only a few butterfly species appear to benefit from Natura 2000 conservation areas

Based on a media release by Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Paris, Halle, Leipzig. The European Union's (EU) network of Natura 2000 conservation areas is designed to protect endangered animal and plant species and their habitats. But it also benefits a large number of non-target species. However, these beneficiaries are unevenly distributed across the major animal groups, reports an international team of researchers, including biologists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), in the journal Conservation Biology. According to the research team, almost half of the bird species not named in the target group benefit from Natura 2000 protection, but only one forth of the butterflies.

“When it comes to the prioritisation of future conservation efforts, we need to pay more attention to insects”, concludes co-author Prof Josef Settele from UFZ and iDiv. The agricultural ecologist and butterfly specialist does not only have butterflies in mind, but also other, often less visible groups such as mosquitoes, ants and the many soil insects that also play an essential role in nature.

However, the researchers only investigated the impacts of Natura 2000 conservation areas on birds and butterflies. Why were these groups chosen? “For these two groups only we have long-term observations going back many years or even decades,” says Settele. So the researchers evaluated data collected by thousands of volunteers over an extended period at over 9,500 sites for birds and over 2,000 sites for butterflies.

Ornithologists and butterfly enthusiasts, both volunteers and professionals, regularly visit these areas, counting the number of individuals of the respective species at a given time. Between the beginning of April and the end of September, 318 volunteers in Germany walk 460 defined routes, usually once a week, and count the butterflies they see. Only in unfavourable weather conditions, for example when strong winds prevent most butterflies from flying, the observers take a break as well. Between 2005 and 2018, volunteers counted 3.3 million butterflies in Germany alone.

The ornithologists also collected a huge amount of data, which has now been evaluated by Vincent Pellissier, from the Sorbonne University in Paris and lead author of the study, and his international colleagues. In studies of this kind, most researchers have so far focused on species diversity, and they have often counted more species within Natura 2000 areas than outside. But little is known about the frequency of these supposedly more common species to date, which often play an essential role in nature.

Natura 2000 very successfully targets selected habitats and species of high conservation interest in the European Union. In woodlands, for example, the focus is often on bat species facing difficulties in large areas of the EU. In open landscapes, on the other hand, the targets often are dry and nutrient-poor grasslands, which serve as habitat for rare butterflies such as the Large Blue. It is with these habitats and species in mind that, since 2013, 27,700 of these Natura 2000 areas have reached a total coverage of approximately 18% of the land and around 7% of marine areas in the European Union. This has made the network into one of the world's most successful conservation initiatives.

However, it isn't only these selected species that play an important role in nature, but also many others, that are believed to benefit equally from the establishment of Natura 2000 sites. If their populations dwindle, food webs can be disrupted and ecological patterns can be significantly altered, sometimes with enormous impacts on nature. It is therefore important to take these non-focal species into consideration – and the picture regarding birds and butterflies is very different.

For almost half of the 155 bird species investigated, there are significantly more individuals living in regions with a high cover of Natura 2000 areas, many of them being typical woodland dwellers. By contrast, only 27 out of 104 investigated species of butterflies benefit from this protection, with only two of these species living in woodlands. At first glance this may not seem surprising, since European butterflies spend much more time fluttering across sunny meadows than through woods. But on top of that, many forests in Germany are planted. "The trees growing there are all of the same age and their crowns form a dense roof that allows little sunlight to penetrate," explains Martin Musche, also an insect researcher at the UFZ and a co-author of the study. But most butterflies cannot make their home on the dim forest floor. "So from a butterfly's perspective, we would need a lot more woodland with plenty of light," says the biologist.

Outside woodland areas, the situation does not look too favourable either. Specialists of open landscapes such as the Small Blue are not recorded more frequently in Natura 2000 areas. “We haven't yet investigated the reasons for this, but we do have a strong suspicion,” says Martin Musche. It appears that grasslands and other open habitats in Natura 2000 areas are not faring too well. In many places, dry and nutrient poor meadows are often overgrown with bushes, depriving specialist butterflies of the environment they depend on.

Other meadows are fertilised, and mown more frequently than just once or twice a year. This has a very negative impact on the conditions for many butterflies. “It could easily be the same for other insects that we haven't studied yet,” says Musche. When new conservation areas are designated, or a management plan is being developed for existing areas, then much more attention needs to be given to previously neglected insects. 

Published in parallel to the Biodiversity Strategy of the European Union, the paper helps placing a focus on the potentials and the challenges for EU's nature protection, especially for grasslands. “The european conservation policy is not sufficient for maintaining Europe's grasslands,” says Dr Guy Pe’er, postdoctoral researcher at iDiv and co-author on the paper. “Particularly the CAP as the key mechanism affecting permanent grasslands, focuses on area rather than quality, thus allowing onward habitat degradation even under seeming protection. To stop insect declines, the CAP needs to adapt clear definitions for high-quality grasslands, promote High-Nature-Value farming areas and set sufficient incentives to protect them.”

The study emerges from the synthesis project LOLA-BMS (How Local-scale processes build up the Large-scale response of Butterflies to global changes: Integrative analysis across Monitoring Schemes), led by Romain Julliard (MNHN, Paris) and Guy Pe’er (UFZ/iDiv), funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity.

Original publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

V. Pellissier, R. Schmucki, G. Pe’er, A. Aunins, T. M. Brereton, L. Brotons, J. Carnicer, T. Chodkiewicz, P. Chylarecki, J.C. del Moral, V. Escandell, D. Evans, R. Foppen, A. Harpke, J. Heliölä, S. Herrando, M. Kuussaari, E. Kühn, A. Lehikoinen, Å. Lindström, C.M. Moshø, M. Musche, D. Noble, T.H. Oliver, J. Reif, D. Richard, D.B. Roy, O. Schweiger, J. Settele, C. Stefanescu, N. Teufelbauer, J. Touroult, S. Trautmann, A.J. van Strien, C.A.M. van Swaay, C. van Turnhout, Z. Vermouzek, P. Voříšek, F. Jiguet, R. Julliard: Effects of Natura 2000 on non-target bird and butterfly species based on citizen science data, Conservation Biology 34, 3, DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13434

 

Contact:

Dr. Guy Pe’er
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)
Abteilung Ökosystemleistungen & Abteilung Ökonomie
Phone: +49 341 97 33182
Email: guy.peer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/de/gruppen_und_personen/mitarbeiterinnen/mitarbeiterdetails/eshow/peer_guy.html

 

Dr Martin Musche
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Department of Community Ecology
Phone: +49 345 558 5310
Email: martin.musche@ufz.de
Web: https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=38618

 

Prof. Dr. Josef Settele
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)
Department Biozönoseforschung
Email: josef.settele@ufz.de
Web: http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=38572

 

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TOP NEWS Media Release UFZ News Ecosystem Services iDiv Members Mon, 25 May 2020 00:00:00 +0200
International Day of Biodiversity 2020: the pandemic calls for nature conservation https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1713.html A comment by Prof Dr Henrique Pereira A comment by Prof Dr Henrique Pereira

Leipzig, Halle. 2020 was declared a political “super year” for nature conservation. In October, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) should have set the course for international biodiversity policies for the next 10 to 30 years. The corona pandemic has pressed the pause button also in this so-called post-2020 process. COP-15 has been postponed until further notice. However, the pandemic also highlights the important role natural ecosystems play for human health – as a source of pathogens, but also as part of the solution. This is what Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira stresses at this year’s International Day of Biodiversity on 22 May themed “Our solutions are in nature”. Pereira is head of the research group Biodiversity and Nature Conservation at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and co-chair of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). He is involved in several forums with policy makers, including the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the CBD.

“This year marks the end of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. The setting stage for this happened in 2010, when two hundred countries met in the city of Aichi (Japan), under the auspices of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). Back then, the countries decided to achieve a set of 20 so called Aichi-Targets to reduce biodiversity loss by 2020. Recently, the global assessment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) showed that the efforts made by the countries during the last decade were insufficient to meet most of the Aichi Targets. Therefore, 2020 was expected to be the year when a new set of ambitious targets would be agreed by the countries for the next decade, which has already been designated as the UN Decade on Restoration. 

Better biodiversity monitoring and protection can help prevent further pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt and also brings a slowdown to the development of the new biodiversity targets. In some ways, it is fitting that 2020 is marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. This corona virus had bats as original hosts, and may have reached humans through wet markets in China where wildlife is sold, and sometimes, illegally traded. Human destruction of forest habitats and intrusion of human populations in nature have been increasing the likelihood of emergence of new infectious diseases, which in a globalised world can easily lead to pandemics. Better protection of native habitats in the most biodiverse regions of the world and better monitoring of biodiversity and its pathogens can help prevent further pandemics.

Social lockdown allows more space for nature - a glimpse of what could be achieved by rewilding our ecosystems

For a moment, the COVID-19 pandemic has also shown us what happens when humans step back and allow more space for nature. All over the world, people are reporting how wildlife is coming back to cities and other human-dominated ecosystems, from sea turtles on the beaches of Thailand to deer roaming European urban areas. We got a glimpse of what could be achieved by rewilding our ecosystems. I hope that we will keep this in mind as we return to normal life and plan the restoration decade.

2020 is not a lost year for the protection of our livelihood

Despite COVID-19, 2020 will continue to be a key year for biodiversity. Maybe now even more. The EU Commission has just launched a new biodiversity strategy today, a commitment under the European Green Deal to take a leading role in the transition to a more sustainable world. The negotiations for the new global targets for 2030 are well underway in the Open Ended Working Group of the CBD. Parties to the CBD should meet early in 2021 to approve these new set of targets under the post-2020 Framework. And in July, the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) will host its quadrennial meeting, this time dedicated to Biodiversity Monitoring in the post-2020 Framework. Hopefully, 2020 will put the world on a trajectory to meet the CBD vision of living in harmony with nature. Let this be a reason to celebrate the International Day of Biodiversity 2020.”

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/132.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Wed, 20 May 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Deadline for abstracts approaching fast! https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1709.html You are invited to submit your abstract by 15 May 2020 for the GEO BON Open Science Conference &... You are invited to submit your abstract by 15 May 2020 for the GEO BON Open Science Conference & All Hands Meeting 2020.

The conference takes place from 6 to 10 July 2020 in “fully virtual” format, due to the current Covid-19 restrictions.

The event brings together all those involved and interested in the development of Biodiversity Observation Networks and Essential Biodiversity Variables, as well as their potential to support global biodiversity monitoring and conservation.

If you would like to present your work as a scheduled talk or during one of the poster sessions, then please submit an abstract of your work via our online submission portal (https://conf2020.geobon.org/) no later than 15 May 2020.

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GEO BON TOP NEWS Mon, 11 May 2020 11:37:30 +0200
Medicinal plants thrive in biodiversity hotspots https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1705.html New approach to phylogenetically guided drug discovery New approach to phylogenetically guided drug discovery

Based on a press release of Leipzig University

With their rich repertoire of anti-infective substances, medicinal plants have always been key in the human fight to survive pathogens and parasites. This is why the search for herbal drugs with novel structures and effects is still one of the great challenges of natural product research today. Scientists from Leipzig University (UL), the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) have now shown a way to considerably simplify this search for bioactive natural compounds using data analyses on the phylogenetic relationships, spatial distribution and secondary metabolites of plants. Their new approach makes it possible to predict which groups of plants and which geographical areas are likely to have a particularly high density of species with medicinal effects. This could pave the way for a more targeted search for new medicinal plants in the future.

Over 70 per cent of all antibiotics currently in use originate from natural substances obtained from plants, fungi, bacteria and marine organisms. In the battle against infectious diseases, humans are particularly dependent on new drugs from natural sources, as pathogens are constantly changing and producing new dangerous strains. At the same time, we have not exhausted our natural resources. In the plant kingdom alone, only about ten per cent of all vascular plants have so far been screened for suitable active compounds. There are currently about 250,000 structures of natural products stored in scientific databases, with an estimated total of ca. 500,000 in plants alone. So far, however, researchers have not systematically tested the entire plant kingdom; instead, they have conducted isolated searches for drugs, partly in plants with known medicinal properties, and partly in preferred species or geographical regions, or depending on the type and sensitivity of the detection methods used.

Moreover, the knowledge of medicinal plants and their active compounds so far has not been documented consistently. Plants are named differently from region to region, while the metabolites isolated from them are given different trivial names in the literature. The scientists from Leipzig and Halle have now taken a first step towards collecting and standardising this knowledge. To this end, they collected information on the known secondary metabolites, phylogenetic relationships and distribution of the plants on the Indonesian island of Java. They recorded around 7,500 seed plant species, which contained some 16,500 metabolites listed in substance databases. Based on existing knowledge, almost 2,900 of these metabolites were identified as substances with anti-infective effects against viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. These 2,900 active compounds are produced by a total of 1,600 of the 7,500 plant species examined.

This shows that not all plant species produce bioactive compounds in the same way. “Rather, there tends to be a concentration of species that produce active compounds in individual plant families, with those species being usually closely related,” says Prof Alexandra Muellner-Riehl from the Institute of Biology at Leipzig University, who is also a member of iDiv. In order to better narrow down these groups of plants rich in active compounds, the scientists combined the genetic data and the metabolite information. This made it possible to identify those groups of plants in which anti-infective substances occur with significant overrepresentation – and those where only few anti-infective activities have been documented so far. “This information allows us to identify specific plant groups that very likely possess anti-infective substances but have not yet been examined for them,” says Dr Jan Schnitzler from iDiv and Leipzig University. At the same time, the study facilitates the identification of species for which little information on the presence of bioactive compounds has been reported so far. As Prof Ludger Wessjohann of the IPB points out, it is nevertheless important not to ignore these species in the search for new drugs, “because there is a high probability of finding new active substances with as yet completely unknown structures”. 

The approach can also be used to identify promising regions rich in bioactive compounds. In this case, the highest diversity of plant species can be found in Java’s mountainous regions, where the greatest density of plants with anti-infective compounds can also be expected. So the search for new drugs will be more likely to succeed in species-rich areas than in the less biodiverse, agricultural lowlands of central and western Java. If adapted accordingly, Wessjohann and Muellner-Riehl say that this approach could easily be transferred to other geographical areas or other groups of bioactive compounds.

The study was funded as part of the BMBF project “BIOHEALTH – Indonesian Plant Biodiversity and Human Health”. The collaborative project involving partners from German and Indonesian research institutions is coordinated by Leipzig University.


Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Laura Holzmeyer, Anne-Kathrin Hartig, Katrin Franke, Wolfgang Brandt, Alexandra N. Muellner-Riehl, Ludger A. Wessjohann & Jan Schnitzler. Evaluation of plant sources for anti-infective lead compound discovery by correlating phylogenetic, spatial, and bioactivity data. PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1915277117

 

Contact:

Dr Jan Schnitzler
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +493419738582
Email: jan.schnitzler@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/de/gruppen_und_personen/mitarbeiterinnen/mitarbeiterdetails/1058.html

 

Prof Alexandra Muellner-Riehl
Leipzig University
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +493419738581
Email: muellner-riehl@uni-leipzig.de

 

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Research iDiv iDiv Members Media Release TOP NEWS Mon, 11 May 2020 00:00:00 +0200
More soil-borne plant pathogens in a warmer world https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1711.html Scientists develop global map of future risk areas for plant diseasesBased on a media release by... Scientists develop global map of future risk areas for plant diseases

Based on a media release by Pablo de Olavide University Sevilla

Sevilla / Leipzig / Halle. Global warming will increase the proportion of plant pathogens in soils across the globe. Many of these plant pathogens also affect important food and medicinal plants, which is likely to have a long-term impact on the world population's food security. This is the result of an experimental study published in the journal Nature Climate Change with significant contribution by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

A teaspoon of soil contains millions of microbes. Most of these soil organisms are beneficial to humankind: They regulate our climate, support the fertility of our soils, and help us produce food and fiber. Others, however, are capable of devastating entire crops, resulting in important economic losses and even human starvation. Diseases of widespread food crops regularly destroy entire harvests. At the end of the 1990s, one of the most common soil-borne cereal fungi, Fusarium, affected the wheat and barley production in North America, causing an annual loss of around one billion US Dollars. 

A new study, conducted by an international team of scientists including researchers of iDiv, UL and MLU, provides experimental and global observational evidence that the proportion of soil-borne plant pathogens will increase in a warmer world. The researchers reveal the most common fungal plant pathogens found in soils across the globe, and suggest that soils are a critical reservoir of some of the most important plant pathogens worldwide. This is likely to affect many of the globally most important crops like wheat, sunflowers or vegetables, but also cosmetic or medicinal plants like Hibiscus and Aloe Vera as well as wild species serving as a food source for livestock. 

Global atlas of soil-bound plant pathogens

The study also provides the first global atlas of soil-borne plant pathogens highlighting the locations on Earth where these organisms are more common today and will be in the near future. The projections take into account various so-called shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), including sustainability, regional inequality and fossil-fueled development.

“The insights of this study are particularly valuable as they combine data from a global observation network with data from a targeted experiment,” says Prof Nico Eisenhauer, head of the Experimental Interaction Ecology group at iDiv and UL. “This allowed us to provide scientific proof for causal relationships between warming temperatures and increasing prevalence of pathogens in the soils across the globe.”

The researchers collected soil samples from 235 different locations across 6 continents and 18 countries, spanning an entire range of climates from deserts to tropical forests. Moreover, they used a warming field experiment located in Madrid. For the last decade, the experiment has been maintained by the laboratory of co-author Fernando T. Maestre, who cooperated with scientists at iDiv in 2019 during his sabbatical year at iDiv's synthesis center sDiv.

The team used DNA sequencing to investigate the association between the proportion of soil-borne pathogens and increases in temperature across different types of soil. The results made it possible to generate global maps showing the distribution of soil-borne pathogens today, and in thirty years’ time.

Highly populated world regions affected

This opens the door to predict what regions of our planet will be more vulnerable to future microbial plant pests. “Many of the soil-borne fungal taxa affect the health and productivity of economically important crops and wild species serving as food source for livestock worldwide,” says co-author Dr Carlos António Guerra, researcher at iDiv and MLU. “The impacts are likely to have implications for sustaining a growing human population especially in the least-developed countries, where the majority of people rely to a large degree on livestock and natural products supported by natural ecosystems.”

The study highlights that large regions of Asia, Africa, Australia and America contain high proportions of soil-borne plant pathogens. These regions correspond to warm climates such as those from hot deserts and tropical forests. The impacts of warming are particularly evident in soils across the Northern Hemisphere, towards the Arctic, as well as in South Africa, for which all the scenarios show a systematic temperature rise. Many of the affected areas also have a large human population as well as high growth rates, which might indicate potential future threats to their nutrition.

“Global warming is already here, and we will need to adapt to the consequences of decades of heavy fossil fuel consumption,” says the first author of the paper Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo from the Pablo de Olavide University Sevilla. “Knowing more about how climate change is going to affect the microbial communities which control our capacity to produce food and fiber is fundamental for humanity, especially, if we are up to feeding a continuously growing global population.”

This study was made possible by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, funded by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

 

Original Publication:
(Researchers with iDiv affiliation or sDiv sabbatical professor bold)

Delgado-Baquerizo, M., Guerra, C. A., Cano-Díaz, C., Egidi E., Wang, J.T., Eisenhauer, N., Singh, B. K., Maestre, F. T. (2020): The proportion of soil-borne pathogens increases with warming at the global scale. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-020-0759-3 

 

A short video explaining the topic can be found here

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Dr. Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle, Jena, Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174
Email: carlos.guerra@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/474.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS sDiv Mon, 11 May 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Climate change impact greater on marine systems https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1703.html New international research reveals warming in temperate regions leads to species gains at sea, but... New international research reveals warming in temperate regions leads to species gains at sea, but not on land.

Based on a media release by the University of St Andrews

Temperature changes lead to clear biodiversity responses in marine systems, where warming coincided with increases in the number of species in most locations. These increases in the number of species are likely caused by the influx of climate migrants from species-rich warmer regions. These are the results of a new research, led by scientists from the Universities of Helsinki, St Andrews and Radboud, in collaboration with researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). published in Nature Ecology and Evolution and focussed on linking biodiversity change to temperature change, and on comparing responses between ocean and land. The research was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution and focussed on linking biodiversity change to temperature change, and on comparing responses between ocean and land.

The researchers found that increases in the number of species were more pronounced in warmer marine areas, where, on the other hand, the numbers of individuals tended to decrease with warming. By contrast, the study did not detect any systematic responses on land, despite a larger increase in temperature, but this is not to say that temperature change is not affecting terrestrial biodiversity. The research team suggests that this result is linked to species on land having wider tolerance and more strategies to avoid warming temperatures compared to ocean organisms. For example, land-based organisms have access to small pockets of suitable climate even if the wider region is warming substantially. However, these findings also suggest that terrestrial species might be lagging behind and not keeping pace with temperature change, known as a “climatic debt”.

The international team used 21,500 biodiversity time series from temperate regions around the globe from the BioTIME database, measuring the change in the number of species and in the total number of organisms through time. Then the research team related these changes with air and ocean temperature changes over the same time periods in each location.

Dr Maria Dornelas, co-senior author from the University of St Andrews, said: “We knew that climate change is having clear and important effects on the distribution of species. We also knew marine heat waves can cause dramatic die offs, but we didn’t know its net effect on the numbers of species.”

Lead researcher Laura Antão from the University of Helsinki added: “We expected to see marine communities responding faster, but were surprised that we could not find consistent responses across our locations on land. As we add more and more pieces describing how ocean and land biodiversity responses are different, further studies are needed to understand what might explain these differences.”

Despite using the largest global database of standardized biodiversity time series, the study focused only on the temperate regions of the globe, since monitoring data from polar and tropical regions remains scarce. As the world is committed to further warming, with 2020 set to be the hottest year on record, substantial challenges remain in maintaining local biodiversity amongst increased climate-related migration. Quantifying how and where biodiversity is changing is crucial given the urgent need to halt current rates of biodiversity loss.


Original publication:

(Scientists with iDiv affiliation in bold)
Laura H. Antão, Amanda E. Bates, Shane A. Blowes, Conor Waldock, Sarah R. Supp, Anne E. Magurran, Maria Dornelas, Aafke M. Schipper (2020). Temperature-related biodiversity change across temperate marine and terrestrial systems. Nature Ecology and Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1185-7


Related links:
BioTIME database
The composition of species is changing in ecosystems across the globe

 

Contact:

Dr Shane Blowes
Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733254
Email: shane.blowes@idiv.de

 

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Media Release MLU News iDiv Biodiversity Synthesis Research TOP NEWS Mon, 04 May 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Insects: Largest study to date confirms declines on land, but finds recoveries in freshwater https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1695.html Global insect populations show highly variable local trends. Global insect populations show highly variable local trends.

Leipzig. A worldwide compilation of long-term insect abundance studies shows that the number of land-dwelling insects is in decline. On average, there is a global decrease of 0.92% per year, which translates to approximately 24% over 30 years. At the same time, the number of insects living in freshwater, such as midges and mayflies, has increased on average by 1.08% each year. This is possibly due to effective water protection policies. Despite these overall averages, local trends are highly variable, and areas that have been less impacted by humans appear to have weaker trends. These are the results from the largest study of insect change to date, including 1676 sites across the world, now published in the journal Science. The study was led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). It fills key knowledge gaps in the context of the much-discussed issue of “insect declines“.

Over the past few years, a number of studies have been published that show dramatic declines in insect numbers through time. The most prominent, from nature reserves in Western Germany, suggested remarkable declines of flying insect biomass (>75% decrease over 27 years). This was published in 2017 and sparked a media storm suggesting a widespread “insect apocalypse”. Since then, there have been several follow-up publications from different places across the world, most showing strong declines, others less so, and some even showing increases. But so far, no one has combined the available data on insect abundance trends across the globe to investigate just how widespread and severe insect declines are. Until now.

Largest data compilation to date

An international team of scientists collaborated to compile data from 166 long-term surveys performed at 1676 sites worldwide, between 1925 and 2018, to investigate trends in insect abundances (number of individuals, not species). The complex analysis revealed a high variation in trends, even among nearby sites. For example, in countries where many insect surveys have taken place, such as Germany, the UK and the US, some places experienced declines while others quite close by indicated no changes, or even increases. However, when all of the trends across the world were combined, the researchers were able to estimate how total insect abundances were changing on average across time. They found that for terrestrial insects (insects that spend their whole lives on land, like butterflies, grasshoppers and ants), there was an average decrease of 0.92% per year.

Insects disappear quietly

First author Dr Roel van Klink, a scientist at iDiv and UL, said: “0.92% may not sound like much, but in fact it means 24% fewer insects in 30 years’ time and 50% fewer over 75 years. Insect declines happen in a quiet way and we don’t take notice from one year to the next. It’s like going back to the place where you grew up. It’s only because you haven’t been there for years that you suddenly realise how much has changed, and all too often not for the better.” 

Insect declines were strongest in some parts of the US (West and Midwest) and in Europe, particularly in Germany. For Europe in general, trends became on average more negative over time, with the strongest declines since 2005.

Fewer insects in the air

When reporting about “insect decline”, the mass media have often referred to the “windscreen phenomenon”: people’s perception that there are fewer insects being splattered on the windscreens of their cars now compared to some decades ago. The new study confirms this observation, at least on average. Last author Jonathan Chase, professor at iDiv and MLU, said: “Many insects can fly, and it’s those that get smashed by car windshields. Our analysis shows that flying insects have indeed decreased on average. However, the majority of insects are less conspicuous and live out of sight – in the soil, in tree canopies or in the water.”

For the new study, the researchers also analysed data from many of these hidden habitats. This showed that on average, there are fewer insects living in the grass and on the ground today than in the past – similar to the flying insects. By contrast, the number of insects living in tree canopies has, on average, remained largely unchanged.

Freshwater insects have recovered

At the same time, studies of insects that live (part of) their lives under water, like midges and mayflies, showed an average annual increase of 1.08%. This corresponds to a 38% increase over 30 years. This positive trend was particularly strong in Northern Europe, in the Western US, and since the early 1990s, in Russia. For Jonathan Chase this is a good sign. He said: “These numbers show that we can reverse these negative trends. Over the past 50 years, several measures have been taken to clean up our polluted rivers and lakes in many places across the world. This may have allowed the recovery of many freshwater insect populations. It makes us hopeful that we can reverse the trend for populations that are currently declining.”

Roel van Klink added: “Insect populations are like logs of wood that are pushed under water. They want to come up, while we keep pushing them further down. But we can reduce the pressure so they can rise again. The freshwater insects have shown us this is possible. It’s just not always easy to identify the causes of declines, and thus the most effective measures to reverse them. And these may also differ between locations.”

No simple solutions

Ann Swengel, co-author of the study, has spent the last 34 years studying butterfly populations across hundreds of sites in Wisconsin and nearby states in the US. She stresses how complex the observed abundance trends are and what they mean for effective conservation management: “We’ve seen so much decline, including on many protected sites. But we’ve also observed some sites where butterflies are continuing to do well. It takes lots of years and lots of data to understand both the failures and the successes, species by species and site by site. A lot is beyond the control of any one person, but the choices we each make in each individual site really do matter.”

Habitat destruction most likely causes insect declines

Although the scientists were unable to say for certain exactly why such trends – both negative and positive – emerged, they were able to point to a few possibilities. Most importantly, they found that destruction of natural habitats – particularly through urbanisation – is associated with the declines of terrestrial insects. Other reports, such as the IPBES§ Global Assessment, also noted that land-use change and habitat destruction are a main cause of global biodiversity change. 

This new study was made possible by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). It is currently the most comprehensive analysis of its kind. It depicts the global status of insects and shows where insect protection is most urgently needed.

§IPBES = Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

 


Original publication:
(scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Roel van Klink, Diana E. Bowler, Konstantin B. Gongalsky, Ann B. Swengel, Alessandro Gentile and Jonathan M. Chase (2020) Meta-analysis reveals declines in terrestrial but increases in freshwater insect abundances. Science, 368(6489) DOI: 10.1126/science.aax9931

 

Open access links to publication:

Abstract
Reprint
Full text

 

Further information:

Media release on dramatic decline in insect numbers in Western Germany, which is mentioned in this media release: 
https://www.ru.nl/english/news-agenda/news/vm/iwwr/2017/three-quarters-total-insect-population-lost/

Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is mentioned in this media release: 
https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf

An iDiv policy brief summarises the key findings of the study and offers policy recommendations for insect conservation:
https://www.idiv.de/fileadmin/content/Files_Science-Policy/iDiv_PolicyBrief01_20_Insects.pdf

 

 

Contact:

Dr Roel van Klink (speaks English, German and Dutch)
Postdoctoral researcher at iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 1520 3117216 (mobile phone)
Email: roel.klink@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/788.html

 

Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of research group Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/35.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Head of Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/17.html

 

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sDiv TOP NEWS Media Release Biodiversity Synthesis Fri, 24 Apr 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Plant diversity in European forests is declining https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1693.html More nitrogen in the soil: common plant species on the rise More nitrogen in the soil: common plant species on the rise

Leipzig / Halle. In Europe's temperate forests, less common plant species are being replaced by more widespread species. An international team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has found that this development could be related to an increased nitrogen deposition. Their results have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The number of animal and plant species is declining globally. By contrast, there are occasionally opposing trends in individual local ecosystems, where there may even be evidence of an increase in species richness (number of species). How can this apparent contradiction be explained, and what are the reasons for it?

Over 1000 plant species studied in Europe

It was precisely these questions that an international team of scientists wanted to explore. Using data from a total of 68 different locations in temperate forests in Europe - including forest sites in Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria - they investigated how the diversity of herb-layer plant species has changed over the past decades. For this, the researchers had to assess stocks of 1,162 different plant species. This set of data was compiled by a network of forest ecologists, called forestREplot. “This network has the advantage that the experts on the actual locations can be asked if something is unclear, and, in this way, it differs from many other large databases,” said lead author Ingmar Staude, a doctoral student at iDiv and the MLU.

The analysis of these data was made possible by the sDiv synthesis centre of iDiv. The scientists found that plant species with a small geographical range, which can often be found in only a few forests, tend to have an increased risk of extinction within the respective forests. "This is not so much due to the smaller population size of such plants, but rather to their ecological niche," explains Ingmar Staude. Small-ranged species are often those adapted to relatively few nutrients in the soil.

Nitrogen-loving plants on the increase

The scientists were able to show that chronic and excessive nitrogen deposition in many parts of Europe is related to the increased risk of extinction of such species. In contrast, plant species that prefer nutrient-rich soils, such as nettle and blackberry benefit. These plants grow faster under higher nutrient supply and have now a sudden competitive advantage.

While small-ranged species have disappeared, widespread, nitrogen-loving, and occasionally exotic species are on the rise. The average biodiversity of individual forests has therefore not actually decreased. However, the biodiversity of the biome has decreased as small-ranged species were commonly lost. Based on their research, the researchers estimated a 4% decrease over the last decades. However, they point out that many of the sites investigated are in protected areas, and if areas used for forestry were to be examined, the decline could be even greater.

Consequences for the entire ecosystem

“We now have to find out whether the processes we observe in forests are similar in other biomes,” said Ingmar Staude. With the help of the sDiv synthesis centre of iDiv, data are to be evaluated now for a number of biomes; for example, European grasslands and Alpine ecosystems.

The loss of less common species has an impact on ecosystems. If individual plant species disappear, some insect species and soil organisms also disappear along with them. And the further regional floras homogenise, the less effectively these ecosystems can react to changing environmental conditions. The scientists of this study argue that nitrogen deposition needs to be reduced to decrease the extinctions of small-ranged species. These species play an important role when it comes to the capacity of our forest ecosystems to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

This study is a product of the sDiv synthesis working group sREplot. iDiv's synthesis center sDiv funds working group meetings where 10 to 20 national, international scientists and iDiv researchers work together on scientific issues.

Kati Kietzmann

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliiation and alumni in bold)
Ingmar R. Staude, Donald M. Waller, Markus Bernhardt-Romermann, Anne D. Bjorkman, Jorg Brunet, Pieter De Frenne, Radim Hedl, Ute Jandt, Jonathan Lenoir, František Mališ, Kris Verheyen, Monika Wulf, Henrique M. Pereira, Pieter Vangansbeke, Adrienne Ortmann-Ajkai, Remigiusz Pielech, Imre Berki, Marketa Chudomelova, Guillaume Decocq, Thomas Dirnbock, Tomasz Durak, Thilo Heinken, Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Martin Kopecky, Martin Macek, Marek Malicki, Tobias Naaf, Thomas A. Nagel, Petr Petřik, Kamila Reczyńska, Fride Hoistad Schei, Wolfgang Schmidt, Tibor Standovar, Krzysztof Świerkosz, Balazs Teleki, Hans Van Calster, Ondřej Vild, Lander Baeten (2020). Replacements of small- by large-ranged species scale up to diversity loss in Europe’s temperate forest biome. Nature Ecology & Evolution, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1176-8


Related Links:

The composition of species is changing in ecosystems across the globe

Plant species with medium abundance have declined the most

"We are losing biodiversity threefold," says Marten Winter

Database forestREplot

sDiv working group sREplot

 

Contact:

Ingmar Staude
Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733136
Email: ingmar.staude@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/818.html

 

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

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MLU News Media Release sDiv Biodiversity Conservation Research iDiv TOP NEWS Mon, 13 Apr 2020 00:00:00 +0200
A glimpse into the future of tropical forests https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1691.html New method enables predictions for the development of species-rich forests New method enables predictions for the development of species-rich forests

Leipzig / Panama City. Tropical forests are a hotspot of biodiversity. Against the backdrop of climate change, their protection plays a special role and it is important to predict how such diverse forests may change over decades and even centuries. This is exactly what researchers at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and other international research institutions have achieved. Their results have been published in the scientific journal Science.

Nowhere in the world is the loss of the so-called primary forests advancing faster than in the tropics. The natural primary forests are compelled to give way to agriculture and livestock farming and, as a result of clearing, important habitats are lost. In addition, the carbon stored in the trees is released as CO2. When the cleared areas are no longer used, new ‘secondary’ forests grow on them and these then capture part of the previously released CO2. The promotion of such natural forest areas can therefore offer an inexpensive way of mitigating climate-damaging CO2 from the atmosphere and, at the same time, promote biodiversity.

However, not all forests develop in the same way. In order to manage the recovery and renaturation of tropical forests, it is necessary to be able to predict how the forests will develop. To achieve this, certain parameters must be known; how quickly do the trees grow and how quickly do they die? How many offspring do they produce, which then in turn ensure the continued existence of the species? This is precisely the data which has been recorded in Panama over the past 40 years, in one of the most researched tropical rainforests in the world, for 282 tree species.

Using this data, researchers were able to show that trees pursue different strategies during their development. On the one hand, they differ in terms of their pace of life; while ‘fast’ species both grow and die quickly, ‘slow’ species grow slowly and reach an old age. On the other hand, trees can differ regarding their stature, irrespective of pace of life. These ‘infertile giants’, also known as long-lived pioneers, grow relatively quickly, and reach a great stature, but produce only a few offspring per year, contrasting with the ‘fertile dwarfs’; small shrubs and treelets which grow slowly and do not live long, but produce a large number of offspring.

But how many, and which factors of this demographic diversity have to be taken into account in order for us to be able to predict the development of a diverse forest? An international research team used a digital experiment to answer this question. In a computer model, they simulated how trees grow, die, produce offspring and compete for light as in a real forest. They allowed different configurations of the model to compete against each other; these contained either all 282 species from Panama or only a few selected ‘strategy types’. The species differed in only one or two respects; their pace of life and their stature. The respective model predictions were then compared with the observed development of real, regrowing secondary forests.

The researchers found that their model worked reliably with only five strategy types, but that both strategy dimensions must be taken into account. “In particular, the long-lived pioneers are important because they account for the bulk of biomass – and carbon – in this forest type at almost all ages, and not only in middle-aged forests as assumed so far,” said first author Dr Nadja Rüger, junior research group leader at iDiv and UL.

Following years of research, Rüger and her colleagues have now been able to establish a completely data-driven modelling approach which can be used to predict the development of species-rich forests, without the usual, tedious adjustment and calibration of unknown model parameters, thus saving both time and resources. “Basically, we were able to reduce the forest to its essence, and that was only possible because we know so much about the tree species in the forest in Panama,” said Rüger.

While forests are being impacted by climate change, they are also significantly slowing its pace – estimates are the vegetation of the earth is soaking up approximately 34% of the carbon molecules we emit, annually. However, scientists are not sure whether we will be able to count on this significant ecosystem service in the future. “By advancing our ability to predict forest carbon storage and represent the rich biodiversity within tropical forests, we are now on a path to much more accurately capture important ecological processes in the global models that are used by policy makers to predict the pace of climate change,” said co-author Caroline Farrior, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Kati Kietzmann


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni in bold)
Nadja Rüger, Richard Condit, Daisy H. Dent, Saara J. DeWalt, Stephen P. Hubbell, Jeremy W. Lichstein, Omar R. Lopez, Christian Wirth, Caroline E. Farrior (2020). Demographic trade-offs predict tropical forest dynamics. Science, Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 165-168, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz4797


Related links:
‘Infertile giants’ or ‘fertile dwarfs’

Natural Regrowth of Tropical Forest Helps Reach Climate Goals

 

Contact:

Dr Nadja Rüger
Head of Junior Research Group 'Computational Forest Ecology'
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733168
Email: nadja.rueger@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/rueger_nadja.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research Media Release Computational Forest Ecology iDiv TOP NEWS Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:00 +0200
Ecosystem services are not constrained by borders https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1689.html Study evaluates and quantifies ecosystem service flows Study evaluates and quantifies ecosystem service flows

Based on a media release by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

What do chocolate, migratory birds, flood control and pandas have in common? Many countries benefit from ecosystem services provided outside their nations. This can happen through economic relationships, biological and geographical conditions, but we hardly know how and where these ecosystem service flows occur. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) show in a recent study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, how interregional ecosystem service flows can be identified and quantified.

“Ecosystem services are not constrained by borders,” says Prof. Aletta Bonn, who works on ecosystem services at the UFZ and iDiv. “For example, one country benefits from agricultural products originating from other continents or flood protection provided by floodplains in a neighbouring country.” These close links between distant regions arising from ecosystem services are known as telecoupling. Understanding these flows can help to recognise the value of intact nature, identify global drivers of biodiversity loss or soil erosion in distant regions, and develop measures for more sustainable management.

“It is important to understand the interlinkages and the environmental costs caused by domestic consumption of ecosystem services in other countries,” says Aletta Bonn. “This information can then be used in political decisions, such as fair trade standards, environmentally and socially acceptable certification, and financial compensation measures.” But how can ecosystem service flows be identified, quantified and ultimately balanced between countries? The researchers investigated these issues in their recent study. As part of this, they examined the extent to which Germany uses ecosystem services that are provided in other countries. 

“In previous work, we had already developed a conceptual framework for quantifying interregional ecosystem service flows,” says Aletta Bonn. “Here, we differentiated between four types of flows which were examined for Germany in more detail.” The scientists assessed trade flows using cocoa imports as an example and their impact on biodiversity in the producing countries. “It turns out that approximately 85 percent of imported cocoa comes from only five mainly West African countries — Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo.

“Significant impacts on biodiversity are considered for Cameroon and Ecuador due to cocoa trade with Germany,” says Dr. Janina Kleemann, former iDiv researcher and now at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. In the “migratory species” category, the scientists investigated the importance of migratory birds for German agriculture. “Our results indicate that Africa’s tropical and subtropical climate zones provide a habitat for the majority of migratory bird species that make an important contribution to pest control in German agricultural landscapes,” explains Janina Kleemann. Ecosystem services associated with flood protection are assigned to the “passive biophysical flow” category. Here, the researchers concluded that Germany benefits by almost two-thirds from flood regulation provided in other countries’ floodplains, and in return also exports around 40 percent flood regulation to downstream neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands. In the “information flows” category, the loan of a Chinese giant panda to Berlin Zoo served as a case study. The research team highlighted the political, economic, scientific and cultural aspects of this exchange for the relationship between Germany and China.

“To place our study on a sound basis, we collaborated in an interdisciplinary, international team of ecologists, economists, geographers and social scientists,” explains Aletta Bonn. The study, supported by iDiv’s Synthesis Centre (sDiv), is one of the first studies to identify, systematically quantify and assess several interregional ecosystem service flows for a specific country using examples. Awareness and understanding of these flows is the first step towards fairly balancing ecosystem services use and sustainable resource management. “When we know how and to what extent we influence global biodiversity with our consumption patterns and international trade, we can make better decisions regarding individual and national consumption of resources and  develop adequate measures for sustainable management,” says Aletta Bonn. “Our study clearly demonstrates that countries such as Germany bear a global responsibility to protect and conserve biological diversity worldwide.” 

The study is a product of the sDiv synthesis working group sTELEBES. iDiv's synthesis center sDiv funds working group meetings where 10 to 20 national, international scientists and iDiv researchers work together on scientific issues.


Original publication: 
(researchers with iDiv affiliation bold)

Janina Kleemann, Matthias Schröter, Kenneth J. Bagstad, Christian Kuhlicke, Thomas Kastner, Dor Fridman, Catharina J. E .Schulp, Sarah Wolff, Javier Martínez-López, Thomas Koellner, Sebastian Arnhold, Berta Martín-López, Alexandra Marques, Laura Lopez-Hoffman, Jianguo Liu, Meidad Kissinger, Carlos Antonio Guerra, Aletta Bonn (2020): Quantifying interregional flows of multiple ecosystem services — A case study for Germany. Global Environmental Change 61, 102051; doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102051

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Aletta Bonn
Head of Department Ecosystem Services
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733153
Email: aletta.bonn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/137.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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sDiv TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services Media Release UFZ News Mon, 30 Mar 2020 00:00:00 +0200
EU Biodiversity Strategy: Call for nature restoration https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1683.html Scientists and NGOs present policy papers. Scientists and NGOs present policy papers.


Based on a media release by Rewilding Europe

This year, the EU will take decisions that have far-reaching consequences for Europe's people and nature. A new set of policy papers outlines why restoring nature should be made a priority in the new EU biodiversity strategy. According to the papers, restoration of nature, based on rewilding principles, is one of the best ways to tackle our current climate and biodiversity emergencies.

“We have to take the great opportunity to allow more nature and wilderness in Europe – for enhancing biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing," says Néstor Fernández, scientist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). “It is now up to EU policymakers to ensure that this happens across Europe.”

New tools

The policy papers published today describe the research analysing the degree of ecological degradation of European landscapes. They also propose priority corridors that need to be restored to meet the goals of biodiversity European policies. The study was led by iDiv and MLU researchers Dr Néstor Fernández and Prof Henrique Pereira, in partnership with Rewilding Europe, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, the WWF European Policy Office, the European Environmental Bureau. It is the culmination of a three-year programme to promote and strengthen Europe's biodiversity conservation agenda.

A new policy brief, entitled “Boosting Restoration for a Wilder Europe”, focuses on a series of maps. These maps help to identify priority areas for landscape-scale nature restoration across the EU, thus helping to establish critical new connectivity between Europe’s “Natura 2000” sites. Integrating a range of different data sets on biodiversity and human impacts on the landscape, the maps aim to inform and guide European policymakers at all levels as they plan and deliver nature recovery.

A fragmented, impoverished landscape

By illustrating the ecological integrity of European terres¬trial landscapes, the new maps showcase the serious degradation of wild nature across much of the continent, impacted by factors such as infrastructure construction, intensive agriculture and forestry, and the disappearance of naturally occurring, large-bodied animals. 

The maps show that areas of Europe where nature is relatively intact are frequently small-scale and isolated, which often leads to further biodiversity decline. This problem is made worse by the absence or unnaturally low presence of large-bodied animals – such as European bison or bears – which are unable to play their unique role in European ecosystems. According to the authors, this further diminishes the functions and benefits those ecosystems could and should be providing.

The role of rewilding

Rewilding, the long-term recovery of ecologically complex ecosystems with lower human intervention, enhances the wide range of benefits that nature gives all Europeans – from clean air and water, carbon sequestration and fertile soil, right through to flood protection, climate change resilience and enhanced health and wellbeing. 

Despite the widespread degradation of European landscapes, wild nature is slowly recovering of its own accord in many areas. This is further promoted by abandonment of less productive lands – a trend that will likely continue in much of Europe for many years. According to the paper authors, this can be seen as an opportunity for policies aimed at recovering landscapes where natural processes play a far greater role in restoring wild nature and natural values.

Original publication (policy brief):
(scientists with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni bold)
Fernández, N., Torres, A., Wolf, F., Quintero, L., Pereira, H.M. 2020. Boosting Ecological Restoration for a Wilder Europe. Making the Green Deal work for Nature. ISBN 978-3-9817938-5-7. LINK

Policy recommendations:
https://www.rewildingeurope.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/europe-needs-large-scale-restoration-for-nature-and-climate/index.html

Contact:

Dr Néstor Fernández
Postdoctoral researcher
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 97 33229
Email: nestor.fernandez@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/342.html
   
Dr Volker Hahn
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Wed, 18 Mar 2020 09:30:56 +0100
Plant life on the edge https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1681.html Plants growing at extremes follow the global rules Plants growing at extremes follow the global rules

Edinburgh/Leipzig. All of plant life can be summarised by what shapes plants take and how they grow. An international team of scientists funded by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK found that tundra plants use a wide variety of adaptations to deal with the very short summers and long harsh winters found at Arctic latitudes and at the top of mountains. The findings, published in Nature Communication, indicate that tundra plants are more diverse in how they cope with cold climates than previously thought. In a warming world, these tundra plants will benefit from having a wide range of ways to adapt to the changing climate.

Based on a blog post by Haydn Thomas, University of Edinburgh

In the far north-west of Canada, beyond the glacier-capped mountains, out along the Mackenzie delta and across the Arctic Sea, a scientist is crouched over a tiny sprig of Arctic heather. He has spent all day on the lookout for the patch of characteristic white flowers, rising just a few centimetres above the tundra. With caliper and notepad, hands now numb, he takes a few final measurements before hurrying back to the warmth of his cabin. The Arctic heather remains, flowers bobbing merrily in the breeze, quite at home at the cold edge of life on Earth.

That scientist, unsurprisingly, was me. And my hands have almost recovered. It can come as a bit of a surprise to some that I spent the majority of my time in this breathtakingly beautiful environment staring at the ground (with periodic scans for bears) taking intricate measurements of Arctic plants. However, the characteristics of plants, known as plant traits, can tell us a huge amount about their life strategies and how they might respond to climate change. In the tundra, which is currently warming more than twice as fast as the planet as a whole, being able to link rising temperatures to traits such as plant height is extremely valuable in understanding how whole ecosystems might change. Of course, that only works if tundra plants follow the rules.

The idea that plants follow general rules relating to their form and function is extremely appealing. The search for simple patterns underpinning the vast diversity of plant life on Earth has been on the go for at least a century, and perhaps as far back as Humboldt’s explorations over 200 years ago . What is more, if patterns in plant traits could be linked to environment or to species co-existence, we could see a revolution in our understanding of plant ecology - the “holy grail” of ecology according to some.

In 2016, a study led by Sandra Díaz provided a major step forward. The authors found that just two dimensions – plant size (large and woody vs small and non woody) and resource economics (acquisitive vs conservative) – explained the majority of variation in six fundamental plant traits across global plant species. In their words, “the global spectrum of plant form and function is thus, in a sense, a galactic plane within which we can position any plant—from star anise to sunflower—based on its traits.”

Now let’s return to our Arctic heather. With hardy evergreen leaves half the size of a grain of rice, a ground-hugging woody structure, and seeds almost too small to see, this dwarf shrub must surely occupy the most icy and distant of outposts within this galactic plane. And what about other tundra plants? Are they a close-knit constellation, or a scattering of stars throughout the galaxy? Inside a small room attempting to catch the last glimmers of a Scottish autumn, brains were whirring.

The greatest barrier before us lay in the data. The majority of the world’s plant trait data is collected from temperate regions and the tropics. Very little data was available for tundra plants. That might be appropriate to draw out patterns across the planet as a whole, but we wanted to understand if apparently underlying rules applied within the whole, in the extreme conditions in the tundra.

Step up the power of collaboration. Thankfully, I was far from the only scientist crouched over a sprig of heather. The “Tundra Trait Team”, who also met for several meetings at iDiv's synthesis centre sDiv (sTundra), had been compiling just the information we needed to understand trait variation in the tundra. With help from well over 100 contributors, together adding over 50,000 new trait records, we now had the data we needed to test whether the two dimensions that framed the global spectrum of plant form and function held up in the tundra.

The answer in short, is that tundra plants occupy half of global trait space. The slightly longer answer is that although tundra plants do cluster together, they occupy a surprisingly wide range of global trait space. Although they are at the small end of plant life on Earth (as you might have expected), they still have remarkably varied strategies for capturing resources and coping with the extreme climatic conditions and incredibly short growing seasons of the tundra biome. Perhaps even more surprisingly, global rules hold up extremely well in the tundra: the same two dimensions explain the majority of trait variation.

Where does this leave us? Our study suggests that trait relationships are not simply emergent properties from global plant trait data, but say something fundamental about the rules that underpin evolution, community assembly, and ecosystem response to environmental change. So from the towering redwood tree to the tiny Arctic heather, global plant trait relationships really do seem to apply across the broad spectrum of plant life on Earth. The holy grail of plant ecology may indeed be within reach.

Haydn Thomas

 

Original publication
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation and iDiv alumni bold)

Thomas, H.J.D., Bjorkman, A.D., Myers-Smith, I.H., Elmendorf, S.C., Kattge, J., Diaz, S., Vellend, M., Blok, D., Cornelissen, J.H.C., Forbes, B.C., Henry, G.H.R., Hollister, R.D., Normand, S., Prevéy, J.S., Rixen, C., Schaepman-Strub, G., Wilmking, M., Wipf, S., Cornwell, W.K., Beck, P.S.A., Georges, D., Goetz, S.J., Guay, K.C., Rüger, N., Soudzilovskaia, N.A., Spasojevic, M.J., Alatalo, J.M., Alexander, H.D., Anadon-Rosell, A., Angers-Blondin, S., te Beest, M., Berner, L.T., Bjork, R.G., Buchwal, A., Buras, A., Carbognani, M., Christie, K.S., Collier, L.S., Cooper, E.J., Elberling, B., Eskelinen, A., Frei, E.R., Grau, O., Grogan, P., Hallinger, M., Heijmans, M.M.P.D., Hermanutz, L., Hudson, J.M.G., Johnstone, J.F., Hülber, K., Iturrate-Garcia, M., Iversen, C.M., Jaroszynska, F., Kaarlejarvi, E., Kulonen, A., Lamarque, L.J., Lantz, T., Lévesque, E., Little, C.J., Michelsen, A., Milbau, A., Nabe-Nielsen, J., Nielsen, S.S., Ninot, J.M., Oberbauer, S.F., Olofsson, J., Onipchenko, V.G., Petraglia, A., Rumpf, S.B., Shetti, R., Speed, J.D.M., Suding, K.N., Tape, K.D., Tomaselli, M., Trant, A.J., Treier, U.A., Tremblay, M., Venn, S.E., Vowles, T., Weijers, S., Wookey, P.A., Zamin, T.J., Bahn, M., Blonder, B., van Bodegom, P.M., Bond-Lamberty, B., Campetella, G., Cerabolini, B.E.L., Chapin, F.S. III, Craine, J.M., Dainese, M., Green, W.A., Jansen, S., Kleyer, M., Manning, P., Niinemets, Ü., Onoda, Y., Ozinga, W.A., Peñuelas, J., Poschlod, P., Reich, P.B., Sandel, B., Schamp, B.S., Sheremetiev, S.N., de Vries, F.T. (2020). Global plant trait relationships extend to the climatic extremes of the tundra biome. Nature Communications 11, 1351. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15014-4

 

Contact:

Haydn Thomas
School of GeoSciences
University of Edinburgh
Email: hydthomas@gmail.com

 

Dr Marten Winter
Coordinator of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

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Research iDiv TOP NEWS sDiv Media Release Fri, 13 Mar 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Getting hit from all sides: Anthropogenic threats gang up on biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1679.html Report by Diana Bowler, postdoctoral researcher at the Ecosystem Services group at iDiv, FSU resp....

Report by Diana Bowler, postdoctoral researcher at the Ecosystem Services group at iDiv, FSU resp. UFZ and first author of a new publications in 'people and nature'

Leipzig. An important step in assessing which species are most at risk of extinction is determining which places are most affected by human activities. Environmental changes caused by harmful human activities are often grouped as climate change, habitat loss, exploitation (e.g., hunting and fishing), pollution, and spread of non-native species. In this study, we examined maps of the intensities of these human-caused environmental changes across the world. We analysed the spatial relationships among the intensities of these environmental changes to identify which were most associated with each other. 

We found that places exposed to one type of change (e.g., habitat loss) also tend to be exposed to another (e.g., non-native species). These associations were especially common on land and along coastlines. Places with the highest intensities of multiple threats were temperate broad-leaf and mixed forest (e.g., in western and central Europe) and the central Indo-pacific. Places with the lowest intensities of multiple threats were the boreal forest and the South Pacific. On land, climate change was relatively independent – but areas of high climate change (such as deserts and northern habitats such as the tundra and boreal forests) are less likely to have other types of environmental changes. From our analysis emerged the concept of an ‘Anthropogenic Threat Complex’ or ATC that represents a distinctive set of environmental changes. 

We grouped the entire surface of the world into 11 ATCs that can be used to guide future studies on the interactive effects of different types of environmental changes by identifying the changes which overlap, and where these changes are most intense. Our study also supports the development of research synthesis and joined-up conservation policy among regions of the world exposed to the same types of environmental changes.

Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Bowler, D. E., Bjorkman, A. D., Dornelas, M., Myers-Smith, I. H., Navarro, L. M., Niamir, A., Supp, S. R., Waldock, C., Vellend, M., Blowes, S. A., Böhning-Gaese, K., Bruelheide, H., Elahi, R., Antão, L. H., Hines, J., Isbell, F., Jones, H. P., Magurran, A. E., Cabral, J. S., Winter, M. and Bates, A. E. (2019). Mapping human pressures across the planet uncovers anthropogenic threat complexes. People and Nature. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10071

 

Contact:

Dr. Diana Bowler
Postdoktorand der Forschungsgruppe Ökosystemleistungen
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung – UFZ
Phone: +49 341 9733199
Email: diana.bowler@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/de/gruppen_und_personen/mitarbeiterinnen/mitarbeiterdetails/975.html

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Ecosystem Services Thu, 12 Mar 2020 00:00:00 +0100
TRY database for plant traits has released more than a billion records https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1674.html On February 29, the number of 1 billion trait records delivered by iDiv’s research platform... On February 29, the number of 1 billion trait records delivered by iDiv’s research platform TRY was cracked. Founded in 2007 this open-access database has become the primary resource of plant traits used by the research community worldwide. A recent publication in Global Change Biology with more than 700 authors summarizes the main achievements of the 13 years of operation and the contribution to research. As of today, TRY comprises 657 datasets from 991 data contributors. The database contributed to 290 publications in 83 scientific journals.

The most frequent keywords in these publications are biodiversity, climate change, plant traits and functional diversity. Besides advancing basic science, the research relying on TRY data is instrumental in devising strategies to combat the biodiversity crisis and to develop strategies for a sustainable use of our planet’s biodiversity (e.g. Newbold et al. 2015, Nature), thus supporting the work of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). TRY is a network of vegetation scientists headed by Future Earth and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. The TRY database is coordinated by Jens Kattge, Gerhard Bönisch and Christian Wirth.

Original publication:
Jens Kattge et al. (2020) TRY plant trait database – enhanced coverage and open access. Global Change Biology 26,1, Pages 119-188. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14904

 

Contact:

Dr Jens Kattge
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Phone: +49 3641 576226
Email: jkattge(at)bgc-jena.mpg.de
Web: https://www.bgc-jena.mpg.de/functionalbiogeography/index.php/People/JensKattge

 

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iDiv iDiv Members TOP NEWS Mon, 09 Mar 2020 00:00:00 +0100
More taxpayers’ money for the environment and public benefit https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1664.html Common Agricultural Policy reform: More than 3,600 researchers call for science to be taken into... Common Agricultural Policy reform: More than 3,600 researchers call for science to be taken into consideration

Leipzig. Scientists from across Europe call for swift and effective action from the EU with regard to its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In a position paper written by 21 authors and coordinated by scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Rostock, the EU Commission’s current reform proposals were identified as inadequate. Billions of euros of taxpayers' money are about to be poured down the drain – making it unlikely to reach the set climate and nature conservation targets or the envisaged social objectives. The researchers are proposing ten measures for a sustainable and fair agricultural policy. Over 3,600 signatories support the call for action.

The European Union is currently deciding on funding guidelines for its common agricultural policy for the next seven years. There is a lot of money at stake: in 2019, the EU spent 58 billion euros, a good third of its annual budget, on funding agriculture and rural development. These public funds are primarily used to guarantee farmers' incomes, including intensive agriculture.

According to the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), intensive agriculture is the number one cause of biodiversity loss and associated ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being. For example, the decline in numbers of insects leads to decreased pollination of food plants or a lack of plant pest control through natural enemies. Intensive farming also promotes emission of climate gases and contributes to soil and water pollution.

Public awareness of the value of biological diversity is growing, and, at the same time, so is public rejection of the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). According to a 2016 survey carried out on behalf of the EU Commission, 92 percent of the citizens surveyed and 64 percent of the farmers considered the CAP funding for environmental and climate protection to be insufficient.

Many scientists from across Europe share these public concerns. “The post-2020 CAP, as proposed by the European Commission, is an inadequate response to environmental and sustainability challenges, and makes a business-as-usual scenario very likely,” write the authors of the position paper. Twenty-one ecologists, economists and agricultural scientists drafted the position paper and posted it in the form of a petition on the Internet in autumn last year. Over 3,600 scientists, from all 27 EU countries and 36 others, have signed the petition, some of them well-known people from society and public authorities. The petition has now been closed and the position paper with the list of signatories published. A more in-depth version of the text, with specific proposals for implementation, appears in the latest issue of the journal People and Nature. [The statements in this press release refer to the signed position paper.]

The action was coordinated by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Rostock.
The scientists are concerned that the already inadequate environmental requirements within the current reform proposals could be even further restricted. This is apparent from the amendments tabled by the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the EU Council – as representatives of the Member States – according to which a number of environmental constraints are to be reduced or lifted altogether.

“The EU is contradicting itself by asserting that the next CAP will be better for the environment and rural areas, while at the same time, cutting the budget for doing just that,” says co-initiator and first author of the position paper Dr Guy Pe’er, ecologist at the iDiv research centre and at the UFZ.

The researchers and signatories are urging that scientific data be taken into account in the current revision of the CAP. “The knowledge necessary for a transition to sustainable European agriculture is available,” they write in the position paper. This knowledge should now be used “… to meet citizens' demands for sustainable agriculture and to remedy systemic weaknesses in the CAP.”

Back in 2017, Pe’er and other authors of the new position paper carried out a ‘fitness check’ to check the currently expiring CAP for effectiveness and efficiency, and identified major shortcomings. In a subsequent analysis, published in the scientific journal Science in August 2019, the scientists examined the current EU Commission reform proposals for possible improvements and drew the conclusion that the next CAP may likely perform even worse than the current one. The current position paper is based on workshops with experts including representatives from society and public authorities. Based on these, the authors come up with a list of recommendations for the EU and its Member States. The authors are now getting great support from many other European scientists and CAP experts.

With their position paper, the authors present ten measures for an improved CAP. Their recommendations include, among others, a demand for adequate funds for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (which are currently increasing), for effective protection of natural habitats and biological diversity, more efficient assessment of the performance of implemented measures, and a more transparent EU agricultural policy that should involve all stakeholders rather than protect narrow interests.

A top priority, the authors say, is to transfer the so-called direct payments to farmers into payments for activities that serve public goods and societal expectations. “These direct payments are primarily used to guarantee farmers’ incomes,” says agricultural economist and last author of the position paper Prof Dr Sebastian Lakner from the University of Rostock. “This prevents these resources being spent more wisely. Direct payments do little to help achieve environmental goals.” More appropriate measures could include the conservation and restoration of small-scale landscape structures with elements such as flower strips, hedges and grassland. Many birds, insects and mammals benefit from this, which in turn also benefits agriculture.

With 40 billion euros annually, direct payments to farmers take up 70 percent of the EU’s agricultural budget. The money is distributed based on the size of the area being cultivated without any significant relationship to sustainability or social standards - the bigger the area, the higher the funding. In their ‘fitness test’, the researchers assessed the direct payments as inefficient, harmful to the climate and environment, and socially unjust.

“Currently, there is a gap between the green aspirations of these payments and reality of the CAP,” says agricultural economist Lakner. “Although the EU claims that 40 percent of payments (including direct payments) are climate-friendly, only 18 percent of the EU budget can be linked to any environmental actions at all, and not all environmental instruments are efficient. Instead, direct payments drive up land prices and create a difficult business environment particularly for the less competitive operators.”

The position paper also refers to the ‘European Green Deal’ announced last December by EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen promising a “… climate-neutral Europe and the protection of our natural habitat …” by 2050. The authors write that “A restructuring of the CAP to effectively support farmers in adapting to the challenges of sustainability would demonstrate the new Commission’s commitment, but such a change requires political courage.” They call on the Commission, Parliament and Council to step up and fulfil their responsibility to protect European agricultural systems, landscapes and people.
Sebastian Tilch

 

Original publications:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Position paper (signed by over 3600 signatories):
Guy Pe’er, Aletta Bonn, Helge Bruelheide, Petra Dieker, Nico Eisenhauer, Peter H. Feindt, Gregor Hagedorn, Bernd Hansjürgens, Irina Herzon, Angela Lomba, Elisabeth Marquard, Francisco Moreira, Heike Nitsch, Rainer Oppermann, Andrea Perino, Norbert Röder, Christian Schleyer, Stefan Schindler, Christine Wolf, Yves Zinngrebe, Sebastian Lakner (2019): Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges (preprint version). DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3666258. Sigantories’ list is available at DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3685632.

Publication based on the above-mentioned position paper:
Guy Pe’er, Aletta Bonn, Helge Bruelheide, Petra Dieker, Nico Eisenhauer, Peter H. Feindt, Gregor Hagedorn, Bernd Hansjürgens, Irina Herzon, Angela Lomba, Elisabeth Marquard, Francisco Moreira, Heike Nitsch, Rainer Oppermann, Andrea Perino, Norbert Röder, Christian Schleyer, Stefan Schindler, Christine Wolf, Yves Zinngrebe, Sebastian Lakner (2020): Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges. People and Nature. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10080.

 

Further links:

Fitness Check of EU Common Agricultural Policy (iDiv media release 2017) 

EU agriculture not viable for the future (iDiv media release 2019)

 

Contact:

Dr Guy Pe’er
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Dept. Ecosystem Services & Dept. Economics
Phone: +49 341 97 33182
Email: guy.peer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/peer_guy.html

 

Prof Dr Sebastian Lakner
Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences
Chair of Agricultural Economics
University of Rostock
Phone: +49 381 498 3260
Email: sebastian.lakner@uni-rostock.de
Web: https://www.auf.uni-rostock.de/en/professorships/a-g/agricultural-economics/team/professor-dr-sebastian-lakner/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services iDiv Tue, 03 Mar 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Colour vision in primates closely linked to palm fruite colours https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1658.html Colourful fruits may be the reason why primates can distinguish between shades of red, green and... Colourful fruits may be the reason why primates can distinguish between shades of red, green and blue.

Leipzig/Amsterdam. The evolution of colour vision might be closely linked to the availability of food. Researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) found that colour vision in African primate species, which is similar to that of humans, is related to the spatial distribution of palm fruit colours. The results of their study have been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. They shed new light on the evolution of primates.

In our retina, three kinds of receptors are responsible for the perception of basic colours: red, green and blue. The same holds true for many primate species – in contrast to all other mammals. For nocturnal species, the ability to distinguish different colours would not provide a significant advantage. It is therefore highly probable that so-called trichromatic vision developed in diurnal primates. In addition to greens and blues, they can also distinguish shades of red, making it easier to detect coloured fruit. This could provide a competitive advantage over other fruit-eating animals that cannot distinguish red from green. While this idea had been tested experimentally in a few species, it remained largely unexplored on a larger scale.

A team of researchers from iDiv, UL and UvA has now shown that trichromatic vision in primates is strongly linked to the availability of conspicuous, red palm fruits. Their research involved analysing data on the colour vision and distribution of more than 400 primate species as well as fruit colour data for over 1700 palm species. The result was clear: trichromatic vision in primates is most common in African countries with a high proportion of palm species with very colourful, conspicuous fruits.

This relationship is a win-win situation, benefiting both primates and palms: while primates rely on palm fruits as their primary food source, they are also important seed dispersers in tropical forests, particularly for large fruits. The research shows that the number of diurnal, fruit-eating primates in Africa increases with the proportion of conspicuous palm fruits, with a peak in subtropical regions. The results suggest that the effects of palm fruits on primates are strongest in the transition zones of arid to subtropical regions, where competition for food is also high. For the African primates, the ability to see several colours is thus an advantage when foraging. Palms, in turn, evolved colourful fruits that could be easily spotted by the primates, thus helping to disperse their seed.

The researchers did not only analyse data from the African continent, but also from Asia and the Americas. “Interestingly, in the Americas and Asia some primate species have trichromatic vision, whereas others do not. Here, we did not identify a relationship between colour vision and the proportion of conspicuous palm fruits,” said first author Dr Renske Onstein from iDiv and UL. Furthermore, most primates in the Americas prefer palm fruits with non-conspicuous colours. By contrast, many trichromatic primates in Asia have no interest whatsoever in a fruit’s colour – they enjoy feeding on large amounts of fruit in general.

“In Asia and the Americas, birds and bats could play a more important role as seed dispersers than primates,” explained Dr Daniel Kissling from UvA, senior author of the study. “In contrast, there are relatively few frugivorous birds on the African continent, so palm species may rely more on primates as seed dispersers than other fruit-eating animals.” The analyses show that palm species in Africa are dominated by those with conspicuous fruits, whereas the fruits of American species tend to be more inconspicuous.

Many primate species are now threatened with extinction due to rapid habitat loss and global changes. This may have cascading effects, especially when some plant species rely on primates as their primary seed dispersers. Thus, conservation efforts should also take plant-animal interactions and fruit-colour diversity into account as this is crucial for maintaining tropical biodiversity.
Kati Kietzmann

Original publication:
(Wissenschaftler mit iDiv-Affiliation fett)
Onstein RE, Vink DN, Veen J, Barratt CD, Flantua SGA, Wich SA, Kissling WD (2020). Palm fruit colours are linked to the broad-scale distribution and diversification of primate colour vision systems. Proc. R. Soc. B 20192731. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.2731

 

Contact:

Dr Renske Onstein
Head of the junior research group Evolution and Adaptation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733 -129
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/core_groups/evolution_and_adaptation.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Research Evolution and Adaptation Wed, 26 Feb 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Climate change will lead to abrupt shifts in dryland ecosystems https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1654.html As aridity increases, dryland ecosystems undergo abrupt changes that will reduce their capacity to... As aridity increases, dryland ecosystems undergo abrupt changes that will reduce their capacity to provide important ecosystem services.

Based on a media release of the University of Alicante

Alicante. Increases in aridity can alter the capacity of dryland ecosystems to sustain life, also limiting the provision of essential ecosystem services to more than 2 billion people living in those areas, such as soil fertility and biomass production. This was shown by a study recently published in Science. The study was led by Fernando T. Maestre from the University of Alicante, who is also a sabbatical at sDiv, the synthesis centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

Drylands cover about 41% of the Earth’s land surface and host one in three humans inhabiting our planet. In these areas, life is highly influenced by aridity, i.e. the balance between the amount of rainwater and the water lost by evaporation. In this sense, aridity is increasing worldwide as a result of climate change. A study conducted by the Dryland Ecology and Global Change Lab at the University of Alicante (UA) led by Fernando T. Maestre revealed for the first time that as aridity increases, dryland ecosystems on the planet undergo a series of abrupt changes.

“In the study we found that numerous ecosystem characteristics had a non-linear response to small aridity increases. This means that there are levels at which faster, sometimes even abrupt shifts occur as a result of relatively small aridity increases. When certain aridity thresholds are crossed, the ecosystem undergoes disproportionate changes and becomes even more arid.

Three phases of change

Three phases of change were identified by the researchers. First, when aridity levels cross values of around 0.54, “the ecosystem becomes limited by the lack of water. The vegetation changes and it becomes dominated by species adapted to drought, such as grasses and shrubs, as is already the case in many areas in the Iberian Peninsula”, researcher Fernando T. Maestre points out.

After these initial vegetation changes, when aridity values exceed 0.7, the soil becomes much less fertile. It loses its structure and becomes more vulnerable to erosion. Moreover, soil organisms that play essential roles in maintaining soil nutrients are radically affected, with a dominant presence of pathogens at the expense of more beneficial organisms.

Finally, beyond aridity values of 0.8, an abrupt loss of diversity and plant cover takes place. “Once this threshold is crossed, the water deficit is such that plants cannot thrive in these conditions. Biological activity is drastically reduced and life becomes conditioned by the windows of opportunity that occur during infrequent rain events. The ecosystem has become a desert”, Maestre says.

20% of global lands affected by 2100

According to climate forecasts, more than 20% of the emerged lands of the planet may cross one or several of the aridity thresholds identified in this study by 2100. ‘Life will not disappear, but our findings suggest that these ecosystems may experience abrupt changes that will reduce their capacity to provide ecosystem services to more than 2 billion people, such as soil fertility and biomass production”, says Miguel Berdugo, lead author of the study and a researcher at the UA Dryland Ecology and Global Change Lab until January 2020.

Minimising negative consequences

The findings of this study are of great relevance in understanding the impacts of climate change on dryland ecosystems, as they could help establish mitigation actions. “While we will not stop climate change, I believe we still can minimise its negative consequences on these ecosystems, which are essential to achieve a sustainable development”, says Maestre. “By providing information on how vegetation and soil properties change as aridity increases, and by mapping those areas most sensible to such increases, our results can be used to optimise monitoring and restoration efforts, preserve biodiversity and avoid the desertification of these ecosystems.”


Original publication

Berdugo, M., M. Delgado-Baquerizo, S. Soliveres, R. Hernández-Clemente, Y. Zhao, J. J. Gaitán, N. Gross, H. Saiz, V. Maire, A. Lehman, M. C. Rillig, R. V. Solé & F. T. Maestre (2020) Global ecosystem thresholds driven by aridity. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aay5958

 

Contact:

Prof Fernando T. Maestre
Sabbatical at sDiv
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
University of Allicante
Email: ft.maestre@ua.es

 

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sDiv iDiv Media Release Research TOP NEWS Fri, 14 Feb 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Global science team on red alert as Arctic lands grow greener https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1652.html Causes of greening process more complex and variable than previously thought Causes of greening process more complex and variable than previously thought

Based on a media release of the University of Edinburgh

New research techniques including drone and satellite technology are being adopted by scientists tackling the most visible impact of climate change – the so-called greening of Arctic regions. A team of 40 scientists from 36 institutions, supported by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), revealed that the causes of this greening process are more complex – and variable – than was previously thought. Their findings have now been published in Nature Climate Change.

As Arctic summer temperatures warm, plants are responding. Snow is melting earlier and plants are coming into leaf sooner in spring. Tundra vegetation is spreading into new areas and where plants were already growing, they are now growing taller. The latest drone and satellite technology is helping an international team of researchers to better understand how the vast, treeless regions are becoming greener.

Understanding how data captured from the air compare with observations made on the ground will help to build the clearest picture yet of how the northern regions of Europe, Asia and North America are changing as the temperature rises.

Now a synthesis project of 40 scientists from 36 institutions (www.idiv.de/stundra), hosted by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, revealed that the causes of this greening process are more complex – and variable – than was previously thought.

Researchers from Europe and North America are finding that the Arctic greening observed from space is caused by more than just the responses of tundra plants to warming on the ground. Satellites are also capturing other changes including differences in the timing of snowmelt and the wetness of landscapes.

Lead author Dr Isla Myers-Smith from the University of Edinburgh said: “New technologies including sensors on drones, planes and satellites, are enabling scientists to track emerging patterns of greening found within satellite pixels that cover the size of football fields.”

This research is vital for our understanding of global climate change. Tundra plants act as a barrier between the warming atmosphere and huge stocks of carbon stored in frozen ground. Changes in vegetation alter the balance between the amount of carbon captured and its release into the atmosphere. Small variations could significantly impact efforts to keep warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade – a key target of the Paris Agreement. The study will help scientists to figure out which factors will speed up or slow down warming.

Dr Jeffrey Kerby, who was a Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth College while conducting the research, said: “Besides collecting new imagery, advances in how we process and analyse these data - even imagery that is decades old - are revolutionising how we understand the past, present, and future of the Arctic.”

The research was also supported by the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), and was informed by a U.S. National Academy of Sciences workshop, Understanding Northern Latitude Vegetation Greening and Browning.

 

Original publication:
Isla H. Myers-Smith, Jeffrey T. Kerby, Gareth K. Phoenix, Jarle W. Bjerke5, Howard E. Epstein, Jakob J. Assmann, Christian John, Laia Andreu-Hayles, Sandra Angers-Blondin, Pieter S.A. Beck, Logan T. Berner, Uma S. Bhatt, Anne D. Bjorkman, Daan Blok, Anders Bryn, Casper T. Christiansen, J. Hans C. Cornelissen, Andrew M. Cunliffe, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Bruce C. Forbes, Scott J. Goetz, Robert D. Hollister, Rogier de Jong, Michael M. Loranty, Marc Macias-Fauria, Kadmiel Maseyk, Signe Normand, Johan Olofsson, Thomas C. Parker, Frans-Jan W. Parmentier, Eric Post, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Frode Stordal, Patrick F. Sullivan, Haydn J. D. Thomas, Hans Tømmervik, Rachael Treharne, Craig E. Tweedie, Donald A. Walker, Martin Wilmking, Sonja Wipf (2020), Complexity revealed in the greening of the Arctic, Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0688-1

 

Contact:

Dr Marten Winter
Coordinator of sDiv (Synthesis Centre of iDiv)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733129
Email: marten.winter@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/sdiv

 

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iDiv sDiv TOP NEWS Research Media Release Fri, 31 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Pollination is better in cities than in the countryside https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1646.html Plants benefit from more bees, especially bumble bees Plants benefit from more bees, especially bumble bees

Flowering plants are better pollinated in urban than in rural areas. This has now been demonstrated experimentally by a team of scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). Although the scientists found a greater diversity of flying insects in the countryside, more bees in cities resulted in more pollinated flowers of test plants. By far the most industrious pollinators were bumble bees, most likely benefitting from the abundant habitats available in the city. To promote pollination, the researchers recommend to take into greater account the needs of bees when landscape planning – both in cities and in the countryside. Their results have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Cities all over the world are expanding. A number of studies have already shown that the conversion of natural areas into built land affects insects and, while the diversity and abundance of insects often decreases, some insect species or species groups may benefit. However, little is known about the effects of urbanisation on the ecosystem services insects provide, such as plant pollination.

A team of scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) has now investigated the effect of the urban environment on insect pollinators and pollination. For this purpose, flower-rich, inner city locations such as parks and botanical gardens were compared with similarly flower-rich sites in rural areas surrounding nine large German cities; Berlin, Braunschweig, Chemnitz, Dresden, Göttingen, Halle, Jena, Leipzig and Potsdam. The scientists sampled flying insects using pan-traps and potted red clover plants as reference for pollination in all locations. Furthermore, they also recorded all insect visits to red clover flowers 20 times a day for 15 minutes. The seeds produced were also counted, thus determining the rate of pollination success.

The most successfully pollinated plants were in the cities; here the flowers were visited more often than in the rural areas. Although the researchers found a greater biodiversity and biomass of flying insects in the rural areas – especially flies and butterflies – these did little to pollinate the red clover. This job was done predominantly by bees, which showed higher species richness and flower visitation rates in cities. Indeed, three out of four of the recorded flower visitors were bumble bees. At a frequency of 8.7 percent, the honey bee was the second most important pollinator.

The researchers believe the great diversity and number of bees in cities is due to the availability of suitable habitats available for wild bees and bumble bees. Good nesting opportunities are found in exposed soils, dead wood and wall cavities, and the large variety of flowering plants in parks and gardens ensures a reliable food supply. Also, bees probably cope better with the challenge of highly dynamic city life than other groups of insects. “Urban people are constantly changing their environment. Finding your way around is a challenge that bees are particularly well-equipped to deal with due to their highly developed orientation and learning skills,” says the head of the study, Prof Robert Paxton, scientist from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). “Flies and butterflies obviously find this more difficult.”

More flower-rich habitats in city centres

Invariably, almost all the insect species assessed benefit from diverse habitat structures which reliably provide food, nesting sites and orientation. In agricultural land these are flower strips, grassland, forest and hedges, and in inner city locations, gardens, wastelands and parks. These are often missing in an extensively cleared agricultural landscape. “I was really shocked at how consistently poor the pollination performance in agricultural land was,” says Paxton. “Other studies have shown that wild bees and bumble bees are particularly susceptible to pesticides. This could also help explain why their diversity is greater in the city, where pesticides play a lesser role.”

Urban insects could ensure agricultural pollination in the future

The figures show just how important pollination is, both for ecosystems and humankind. An estimated 90 percent of all flowering plant species rely on pollination by animals; insect pollinators are essential for maintaining plant diversity. But the food we eat also depends on pollination; the value of pollinators’ services to global agriculture in 2015 was calculated at between $235 and $557 billion.

Flowering plants and their pollinators also play an important role in cities. “What would our urban green spaces be without flowers?” says lead author Dr Panagiotis Theodorou, scientist from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). “The number of urban vegetable gardens and orchards is also growing, but without pollinators, no fruit will ripen there.”

In the medium term, however, cities could also help to maintain rural pollination. “If agricultural land degrades further, cities could serve as a source of pollinators for the farmland surrounding them,” says Theodorou. The researchers therefore recommend that cities should be made more attractive to pollinators, and that the needs of the hardworking bumble bee should be especially taken into account when planning green spaces. But of course, more flower-rich areas and suitable nesting sites also need to be created in the countryside and linked to city habitats so as to boost pollination in commercial orchards.

The study was carried out by first author Panagiotis Theodorou as part of his doctoral thesis at iDiv’s graduate school yDiv. It was funded by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), FZT 118 (DFG).
Sebastian Tilch


Original publication:
(Scientists with iDiv affiliation bold)

Theodorou, P., Radzevičiūte, R., Lentendu, G., Kahnt, B., Husemann, M., Bleidorn, C., Settele, J., Schweiger O., Grosse, I., Wubet, T., Murray, T.E., Paxton, R. J. (2020): Urban areas as hotspots for bees and pollination but not a panacea for all insects. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14496-6


Former media release about similar topic:

Study: Bees are more productive in the city than in surrounding regions (22 June 2016)
https://www.idiv.de/en/news/media_releases/media_release_single_view/469.html

 

Contact:

Dr Panagiotis Theodorou
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49 345 55 26511
Email: panagiotis.theodorou@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.zoologie.uni-halle.de/allgemeine_zoologie/staff/panagiotis_theodorou/

 

Prof Dr Robert Paxton
Head of General Zoology
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 345 55 26451
Email: robert.paxton@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.zoologie.uni-halle.de/allgemeine_zoologie/staff/prof._dr._robert_paxton/?lang=en

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/media

 

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iDiv Members yDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Public lecture: Butterflies and Politics https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1643.html About the connection between insect decline, agricultural policy and our own consumption. About the connection between insect decline, agricultural policy and our own consumption.

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Ecosystem Services Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Even after death, animals are important in ecosystems https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1639.html Scientists reveal the ecological importance of carion

Animal carcasses play an important role in biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems, also over prolonged periods. Scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Groningen have published these findings in the journal PLOS ONE. The carcasses not only provide food for many carrion-eating animal species, their nutrients also contribute to the significantly increased growth of surrounding plants. This, in turn, attracts many herbivorous insects and their predators. The researchers recommend relaxing regulations governing the disposal of animal carcasses when applied to nature conservation areas.

In the Dutch nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen, one of the largest wetland areas in Central Europe, the scientists investigated how red deer carcasses impact local biodiversity. To this purpose, they first recorded the presence of insect species on surfaces both with and without carcasses, and then plant growth in the immediate vicinity of a carcass. They found that the carcasses not only directly benefit many carrion-eating insects like flies or carrion beetles. They also have a positive long-term effect on plant growth.

Plants such as the Welted Thistle (Carduus crispus) grew more than five times larger near the carcasses than in other locations, and this, in turn, resulted in a four-fold increase in the number of herbivorous insects and their predators. “That animal carcasses are important for scavengers is hardly surprising,” says the head of the study, Dr Roel van Klink. “However, I hadn’t expected they would have such a significant impact on the entire local food chain, and continue to do so even after five months, especially on such nutrient-rich soils as in Oostvaardersplassen.” Van Klink carried out the study with colleagues at the University of Groningen. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

The results shed new light on the role of animal carcasses in the ecosystem. "It is now largely accepted that dead wood remains in our forests - which benefits many species," says Prof Chris Smit from the University of Groningen. “However, the sight of dead animals in nature is often still a social taboo, and this is a shame given their important value for ecosystems and biodiversity”. Apart from this, EU laws make it difficult to leave the carcasses of large animals in nature reserves. The authors recommend relaxing these regulations for nature reserves.
Sebastian Tilch

Original publication
(iDiv scientists bold)

van Klink, Roel, van Laar-Wiersma, Jitske, Vorst, Oscar, Smit, Christian (2020): Rewilding with large herbivores: Positive direct and delayed effects of carrion on plant and arthropod communities. PLOS ONE 15 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226946

 

 

 

Contact:

Dr Roel van Klink
sDiv – Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733135
Email: roel.klink@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/788.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/central_management/media_and_communications.html

 

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TOP NEWS sDiv Media Release Wed, 22 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Bringing back nature to the EU in the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1640.html The rewilding of European ecosystems can help to tackle both the current climate and biodiversity... The rewilding of European ecosystems can help to tackle both the current climate and biodiversity emergencies.

Based on a media release of Rewilding Europe

The rewilding of European ecosystems can help to tackle both the current climate and biodiversity emergencies. In a policy brief published today, experts from six organisations, including the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), call on the European Commission to prioritise nature recovery in the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020.

Helping nature help us 

We are currently facing two global environmental emergencies: biodiversity loss and climate change. While they are often considered in isolation, many of their underlying causes are linked to unustainable development. The recovery of nature through rewilding, and the associated enhancement of nature-based solutions, offers a way to effectively address both crises simultaneously.

Recognising and advocating this twin-track approach, the WWF European Policy Office, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, the European Environmental Bureau, Rewilding Europe, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have today released a policy brief calling on the European Commission to prioritise rewilding in the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020. By proposing ambitious nature restoration targets and legislation, the strategy would ensure the recovery of nature at landscape-scale across Europe, providing solutions to both the climate and biodiversity crises, helping the EU meet its biodiversity and climate targets, and benefitting every European citizen.

"The large-scale restoration of European nature will not only help to halt and reverse biodiversity decline, it will also protect carbon reservoirs on land and in the seas, and remove carbon from the atmosphere," says Prof Henrique Pereira, head of the Biodiversity Conservation group at iDiv and MLU. "The Biodiversity Strategy post-2020 should, therefore, propose legally binding targets for the restoration of degraded habitats, using rewilding principles, and ensure financing for climate action delivers active restoration of natural habitats on land and at sea."

Enhancing solutions

Nature-based solutions are actions that work with wild nature and natural processes to help mitigate and overcome society's challenges. The new policy brief outlines the many ways in which the large-scale restoration of European nature would see the enhancement of such solutions mitigate the impact of climate change and boost climate resilience.

For example, forest restoration could sequester up to two thirds of the accumulated carbon dioxide emissions in the Earth's atmosphere, contributing decisively to limit global warming below 1.5°C. Such efforts will only be effective if directed towards the restoration of natural, biologically complex and self-sustained forests, because single species plantation forestry often damages existing biodiversity and can be more prone to wildfire and disease. 

The restoration of peatlands also offers a cost-effective approach to climate change mitigation. Naturally functioning peatlands sequester carbon from the atmosphere, laying it down as peat. But the majority of European peatlands have been damaged through drainage, peat extraction, forestry or burning, causing the peat to dry, oxidise and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, rather than locking it up. Rewetting peatlands can reverse this damage and restore their carbon absorption function.

Meeting targets

The policy brief also outlines how the rewilding of European ecosystems, through the restoration and maintenance of ecologically functional and connected landscapes, wetlands and floodplains, is critical to achieving the objectives of the EU's Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy was adopted by the European Commission in 2011 to combat the decline of biodiversity and nature-based services in the EU. While the strategy to 2020 aimed to "restore at least 15% of degraded ecosystems", a mid-term evaluation carried out in 2015 made it clear that progress on this target has been largely insufficient. A fitness check of the EU Nature Directives carried out in 2016 pointed to the lack of connectivity in the EU's network of Natura 2000 sites as one of the main problem areas.

In addition to mitigating the scale and impact of climate change, landscape-scale nature restoration would improve both the conservation status and the connectivity of the Natura 2000 network.  

Delivering cost-effective change

The new policy brief calls for the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020 to ensure legally binding restoration targets are laid down for member states. Such targets would encompass the restoration of set  areas of natural forest, peatland, floodplain, wetland and biodiversity-rich grassland, as well as coastal and marine zones. Planned afforestation in the context of this agenda would focus on the urban planting of native species while natural regeneration would be promoted elsewhere.

The costs of large-scale ecosystem restoration are often prohibitive – this is another reason why the EU is currently falling short on its restoration targets. As the policy brief points out, restoring self-sustaining, functioning ecosystems that require little human intervention can help to reduce the financial burden of creating coherent ecological networks, supporting restoration at greater scale and providing new opportunities for managing land that is otherwise economically unproductive.

Working with restored nature can – in a timely and cost-effective way – draw down carbon from the atmosphere, protect us from flooding and coastal erosion, stabilise crops, minimise the threat of wildfire, secure drinking water supplies, ensure human health and wellbeing, and drive economic growth. By supporting rewilding, the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020 can help to deliver all these benefits and more.

 

Original publication
(iDiv scientists bold):

Henrique M. Pereira, Néstor Fernández, Andrea Perino, Josiane Segar, Frans Schepers, Rob Stoneman (2020). Ecological restoration in the EU post-2020 biodiversity strategy: The opportunities of rewilding European landscapes for nature and climate. PDF

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Dr Andrea Perino
Science-Policy Coordination
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733184
Email: andrea.perino@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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Biodiversity Conservation iDiv MLU News Media Release TOP NEWS Fri, 17 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
iDiv receives award by the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1637.html Project brings together experts from all over Germany Project brings together experts from all over Germany

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Media Release TOP NEWS sDiv Mon, 13 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Fish species benefit from marine protection to varying extents - common and exploited species profit most https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1632.html Marine protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea are home to more fish species, with the greatest... Marine protected areas in the Mediterranean Sea are home to more fish species, with the greatest gains found among species most sensitive to exploitation.

Leipzig. Marine protected areas reduce fish mortality by limiting harvesting and reducing habitat destruction. They are often designed and implemented to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries. New research shows these conservation efforts lead not only to an increase in the total number of fishes (individuals) in general. Protected areas in the northern Mediterranean Sea also harbour a higher number of common fish species, and significant positive network effects accumulate between individual reserves. This was found by a team of researchers from multiple institutions including the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Tel Aviv University, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). Their results have been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and shed new light onto how fish communities respond to protection.

Coastal regions of the Mediterranean are home to more than one hundred million of people. For centuries, these regions have been impacted by multiple human stressors – such as nutrient pollution and harvesting of natural resources.

Currently, 6.5% of the Mediterranean Sea is designated with some level of protection, though less than 1% is fully protected from all extractive uses, including fishing. Such protection is known to increase the number of individuals and fish biomass inside protected areas, but the effect on the number of species (species richness) is more variable, and evidence for biodiversity gains through protection is mixed. The international team of researchers examined how fish biodiversity in the Mediterranean responded to protection by comparing the numbers of individuals, the relative abundance of species and how they are distributed in space, for fishes inside and outside of protected areas.

The researchers found that conservation has strong impacts on biodiversity. Most notable effects were found on the relative abundance of species in protected areas. Rare and common species were disproportionately affected by protection. In particular, there were more common species inside individual protected areas, as well as at the scale of all protected areas combined.

The researchers found that species most sensitive to exploitation responded more strongly to protection than species less sensitive to exploitation. Exploited species showed gains in the number of individuals inside protected areas, the number of common species, as well as of all species combined. Importantly, the increase in the number of common species with high sensitivity to exploitation was greater at regional than local scales. This reflects a tendency for different protected sites to have different exploited species. As a result, biodiversity benefits from a network of protected areas within an ecosystem.

“We found this network effect in reserves that were independently implemented, so they were not necessarily designed to combine as a network. It would be interesting to know whether similar patterns are found in networks of reserves designed with a particular focus, such as to maximize habitat diversity or promote connectivity among reserves”, said first author Dr Shane Blowes from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

The research shows that examining multiple biodiversity components across scales gives new insights into how communities respond to protection. The findings of the team suggest that protection could help reverse taxonomic homogenisation that is possibly associated with harvesting, and that local biodiversity conservation initiatives can combine synergistically across a regional system of marine protected areas.

 

Original publication
(iDiv scientists bold)

Shane Blowes, Jonathan Chase, Antonio Di Franco, Ori Frid, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Paolo Guidetti, Tiffany Knight, Felix May, Daniel McGlinn, Fiorenza Micheli, Enric Sala, Jonathan Belmaker, 2020. Mediterranean marine protected areas have higher biodiversity via increased evenness, not abundance. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2020;00:1–12. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13549

 

Contact:

Dr Shane Blowes
Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733254
Email: shane.blowes@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research iDiv TOP NEWS Biodiversity Synthesis Media Release Tue, 07 Jan 2020 00:00:00 +0100
Early management and good planning for favourable restoration outcomes https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1633.html This text is only available in German. This text is only available in German.

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Media Release MLU News Research Spatial Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Wed, 01 Jan 2020 00:05:00 +0100
Forstwirtschaftsplan: Conservation of species in Leipzig riparian forest needs management https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1622.html Scientists from iDiv, UFZ and Leipzig University discuss conservation management Scientists from iDiv, UFZ and Leipzig University discuss conservation management

 

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv TOP NEWS Tue, 17 Dec 2019 00:00:00 +0100
The Evidence is Clear: Transformative Change Needed Now to <br />Address Nature Crisis and Protect Human Quality of Life https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1620.html To save biodiversity, the major global challenges should be tackled now

Press release by the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on 12 December 2019

 

https://ipbes.net/news/new-article-science-ipbes-global-assessment-authors

 

Contact:

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UFZ News TOP NEWS iDiv Members Fri, 13 Dec 2019 00:00:00 +0100
Urban growth causes more biodiversity loss outside of cities https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1617.html Researchers assess direct and indirect effects of urban growth on a global scale. Researchers assess direct and indirect effects of urban growth on a global scale.

Leipzig/Halle/Arlington. In a rapidly urbanising world, the conversion of natural habitats into urban areas leads to a significant loss of biodiversity in cities. However, these direct effects of urban growth seem to be much smaller than the indirect effects outside of cities, such as the urban release of greenhouse gases causing climate change globally or the increasing demand for food and resources in cities leading to land-use change in rural areas. Both climate and land-use change are key drivers of global biodiversity loss. An international team of researchers including researchers from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and other institutions assessed the direct and indirect effects on a global scale. The results have been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

We are living in the period of fastest urban growth in human history, with more than 2 billion additional people expected in cities by 2030 – a pace that is the equivalent to building a city the size of New York City every 6 weeks. But what do scientists know and not know about how urban growth is affecting biodiversity? To answer this question, an international team of researchers reviewed more than 900 studies. The work of the highly international synthesis working group was funded and supported by sDiv, the synthesis centre of German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

The researchers found that the direct effects of cities on natural habitat and biodiversity are large and straightforward to map using satellite data. Direct effects occur when urban areas expand, converting natural habitat into cities. Direct effects are cumulatively significant, with 290,000 km2 of nature habitat forecast to be converted to urban land uses between 2000 and 2030. This is equal to an area larger than the entire United Kingdom. Urban areas are causing the most destruction of high-biodiversity habitat in places like coastal China, Brazil, and Nigeria. This adds up to a big loss of biodiversity, because species richness (number of species) at a site is globally on average 50% lower at urban sites than in intact natural habitat.

However, the indirect effect of urban growth on biodiversity is likely far greater than the direct effect. Indirect effects include the biodiversity impacts of resources consumed within the city as well as the impacts of pollution released from cities. The researchers estimate that just the area required to feed the world’s cities is 36 times greater than the urban area of cities. “In other words, the food urban dwellers eat turns out to be more important for global biodiversity than the direct environmental impact of the urban areas”, said co-author Dr Andressa Vianna Mansur, postdoctoral researcher at iDiv. Similar conclusions can be made for other indirect effects, including the role of greenhouse gas emissions from cities in making climate change worse.

To date, much research has been done on the direct effects of urban expansion in particular cities or places – out of 900 studies, more than 600 dealt with the direct effects of urban growth. However, the effects of urban growth are not studied in the regions where the satellite data suggests the most intense effects. “Most studies are in developed countries like the United States and the European Union. Relatively few papers are from developing countries, where cities are expanding the most rapidly into high-biodiversity habitat”, commented first author Robert McDonald from The Nature Conservancy. “As a result, we don’t know much about the way ecosystems change in these habitats in response to urbanisation.”

In contrast to the direct effects, little research has been done on the indirect effects of urban growth – only 34% of all studies of urban impacts on biodiversity consider indirect effects. “In other words, we are spending about twice as much effort to study direct effects than indirect effects, even though indirect effects seem to be far more important in magnitude”, said Robert McDonald.

This gap in the literature may have an effect on policymaking: “The lack of data on the significance of urban biodiversity loss in middle- and low-income countries could lead policymakers to underestimate the importance of the issue”, said Prof Henrique Pereira, research group head at iDiv and MLU. Moreover, there is a lack of information on how unique socioeconomic processes in developing countries, such as informal settlements (slums), affect biodiversity. “Only by closing these research gaps will society be able to make smart and informed decisions about how to protect biodiversity in an increasingly urban world."

 

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists bold)
Robert I McDonald, Andressa V Mansur, Fernando Ascensão, M’Lisa Colbert, Katie Crossman, Thomas Elmqvist, Andrew Gonzalez, Burak Güneralp, Dagmar Haase, Maike Hamann, Oliver Hillel, Kangning Huang, Belinda Kahnt, David Maddox, Andrea Pacheco, Henrique Pereira, Karen C Seto, Rohan Simkin, Brenna Walsh, Alexandra S Werner, Carly Ziter, 2019. Research gaps in knowledge of the impact of urban growth in biodiversity. Nature Sustainability, DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0436-6

 

Contact:

Dr Andressa Vianna Mansur
sDiv – synthesis centre of the
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733176
Email: andressa.vianna_mansur@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Media Release Biodiversity Conservation TOP NEWS Research sDiv iDiv Mon, 09 Dec 2019 00:00:00 +0100
Storytelling in the practise of Citizen Science https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1615.html Narratives have functions and can be explained in a (simple) model Report by iDiv alumna Anett Richter, now scientist at Thünen Insitute, on a new publication in Journal of Science Communication:

Leipzig. Storytelling is understood by many as a communication tool to trigger interest, bring joy and allow the understanding of a complex system. Storytelling is also a method in science communication and, thus, the centre of investigation for researchers from multiple disciplines. In citizen science, where members of the public cooperate with scientists to generate new knowledge, pursue educational goals or gain empowerment as citizens, storytelling is expected to be an integrative part of the communication strategy to find a common language. But can storytelling act as more than a tool for communication? And if so: What are these functions and pathways of storytelling in citizen science?

When investigating storytelling, the first selection to be made is the language of the stories being investigated. The second selection is the choice of format in which the stories are being communicated. In the German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland and Germany, citizen science platforms are well established and represent todays citizen science practise. We decided to investigate all citizen science projects that are represented on these platforms and analysed the role of storytelling in these projects. Once we had established an overview of the projects that apply storytelling, we developed categories and investigated the functions. In a process of abstraction of these functionalities, we derived to a generalised model and some more insights into the significance of storytelling in citizen science.

We found that storytelling has manifold functions. By analysing over 209 analysed projects from Austria, Switzerland and Germany and with the help of two expert workshops to validate the findings, we distinguished the application and integration of storytelling along three major categories. Stories are part of citizen science and function as 1) core research objectives, 2) agents and/or 3) tools.

These functions build linkages between citizens and science and each story facilitates interactions between people and science. The narratives in storytelling act as connecting elements, as co-operator to achieve the goals of the citizen science project. We show that stories create “shortcuts” between science and society and stories stand for the connection of individuals or communities.  

In conclusion, we suggest that storytelling should be a prerequisite to enhance the competencies of the actors involved and to exchange knowledge at the interfaces of science and policy as well as science and society.

Anett Richter

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists bold)
Richter, A., Sieber, A., Siebert, J., Miczajka-Rußmann, V., Zabel, J., Ziegler, D., Hecker, S. and Frigerio, D., 2019. Storytelling for narrative approaches in citizen science: towards a generalized model. Journal of Science Communication, 18(6), p.A02. DOI: 10.22323/2.18060202

Contact:

Dr Anett Richter
Thünen-Institut für Biodiversität
Bundesallee 65
38116 Braunschweig
Tel. 0531 596 2686
E-mail: anett.richter@thuenen.de

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
E-mail: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

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Media Release Ecosystem Services TOP NEWS yDiv Tue, 03 Dec 2019 14:06:30 +0100
Plant diversity struggles in wake of agricultural abandonment https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1614.html Although local plant diversity increases over time, plant productivity does not significantly... Although local plant diversity increases over time, plant productivity does not significantly recover from agricultural use.

Based on a media release of the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota/Leipzig. Decades after farmland was abandoned, plant diversity and productivity struggle to recover. This has been shown by a new research, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. Researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Minnesota examined plant diversity and plant productivity on fields that had been ploughed and abandoned for agricultural use. Although local grassland plant diversity increased over time, plant productivity did not significantly recover.

The international team of researchers examined 37 years of data tied to plant diversity (species richness, i.e., number of species) and plant productivity (i.e., biomass or amount of plants) related to 21 grasslands and savannas in Minnesota. Most of these fields had been ploughed and abandoned for agricultural use between one and 91 years prior. The researchers then compared the plots to nearby land that has not been significantly impacted by human activity.

They found that one year after abandonment, the fields had, on average, 38% of the plant diversity and 34% of the plant productivity for the land that was never ploughed. 91 years after abandonment, the fields had 73% of the plant diversity and 53% of the plant productivity. This shows that local grassland plant diversity increased significantly over time, but incompletely recovered. Plant productivity did not significantly recover.

The researchers suggest that the slow and incomplete recovery of species on abandoned farmland in Minnesota is likely happening in ecosystems around the world where land has been cleared for agriculture, logging or other human activities.

“The amount of land being used for agricultural purposes has slowly been decreasing, leaving some 11 million square miles of old fields and recovering forests across our planet,” said co-author Dr Adam Clark, who is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). “In these spaces, active restoration efforts may often be needed to restore biodiversity and prevent the extinction of species.”

Restoration tactics can include using prescribed burns, dispersing seeds, using haying to remove nutrients added through fertilization and reintroducing others in the food chain (e.g., herbivores, predators) pushed out of the area.

“When taken at a global scale, fossil records indicate plant species are going extinct at rates hundreds of times faster than the natural extinction rate,” said first author Prof Forest Isbell, assistant professor in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS). “At this localized level, we’re seeing how human activity can impact the loss of species.”

 

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists bold)
Forest Isbell, David Tilman, Peter Reich, and Adam T. Clark. "Deficits of biodiversity and productivity linger a century after agricultural abandonment". Nature Ecology and Evolution 3:1533–1538, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-1012-1

 

Contact:

Dr Adam Clark
Physiological Diversity
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Email: adam_thomas.clark@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/798.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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TOP NEWS iDiv Physiological Diversity sDiv Research Media Release Fri, 22 Nov 2019 00:00:00 +0100
Highly Cited Researchers 2019 https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1609.html 10 iDiv members named Highly Cited Researchers Clarivate Analytics lists 10 iDiv members in its 2019 selection of “Highly Cited Researchers”. According to Clarivate Analytics, these scientists have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last ten years.

The following iDiv members can be found on the list (in alphabetical order):

Prof Jonathan Gershenzon (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, iDiv)

Prof Stanley Harpole (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

Dr Jens Kattge (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

Dr Stefan Klotz (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv)

Prof Ingolf Kühn (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, iDiv)

Prof Markus Reichstein (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, iDiv)

Prof Matthias Rillig (Freie Universität Berlin, iDiv)

Prof Josef Settele (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv)

Prof Peter F. Stadler (Leipzig University, iDiv)

Dr Marten Winter (iDiv)

In total, 6,200 researchers from 21 research fields have been selected.

https://t.co/gScxl0iJfs

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TOP NEWS Tue, 19 Nov 2019 16:00:08 +0100
Plant species with medium abundance have declined the most. https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1608.html The full text is only available in German.  

The full text is only available in German.

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iDiv Members Ecosystem Services Media Release Fri, 08 Nov 2019 00:00:00 +0100
Higher local earthworm diversity in Europe than in the tropics https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1600.html Global climate change could alter earthworm communities worldwide. Global climate change could alter earthworm communities worldwide.

Leipzig. In any single location, there are typically more earthworms and more earthworm species found in temperate regions than in the tropics. Global climate change could lead to significant shifts in earthworm communities worldwide, threatening the many functions they provide. These are the two main results of a new study published in Science. The research was led by scientists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University. They brought together 140 researchers from across the globe to compile the largest earthworm dataset worldwide, encompassing 6928 sites in 57 countries.

Earthworms can be found in many ecosystems worldwide. Where the soil is not frozen (permafrost), too wet, acidic, or completely dry (deserts), earthworms substantially shape the way ecosystems function. They dig holes, mix soil components and eat organic debris. By doing so, they drive a wide range of ecosystem services, such as nutrient provision, freshwater supply, carbon storage, climate mitigation or seed dispersal. It is for these reasons that earthworms are considered highly important “ecosystem engineers”. This importance is also reflected by the large amount of biomass that accumulates in earthworms: in fact, the total earthworm biomass is often larger than that of all mammals living in the same area.

Although the great impact of earthworms on ecosystems and the services they provide to people are well known, little is known about how they are distributed on a global scale. “Researchers have known for decades that for any given area in the tropics we would usually expect more species than in the same sized area in temperate regions,” says first author Dr Helen Phillips, researcher at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Leipzig University (UL). “But until now, we had been unable to quantitatively investigate the same global patterns for earthworms, as there was no global earthworm dataset.”

Phillips and her colleagues aimed to create a global map using as much data on earthworm diversity, abundance and biomass as possible. Working as part of an international sDiv (iDiv’s synthesis centre) working group, Phillips, senior authors Nico Eisenhauer (iDiv, UL) and Erin Cameron (Saint Mary’s University), as well as other members of the group contacted earthworm researchers from around the world and asked them to provide their data for compiling a whole new global earthworm dataset with open access for everyone. “Initially, we thought this is a crazy idea. But then, we were impressed how many colleagues were highly motivated to share their data for this exciting endeavour,” says senior author Prof Nico Eisenhauer, research group head at iDiv and Leipzig University. “We basically started from scratch in 2016 – only a couple of years later we could publish one of the largest datasets on soil biodiversity. This is an amazing achievement of the lead author Helen Phillips and the many scientists that trusted in us.”

The results of this huge effort show that patterns of belowground biodiversity do not match those observed for organisms living aboveground. Plant, insect or bird diversity (number of species within any given area) typically increases from high to low latitudes, meaning that the number of species is highest in the tropics. For earthworms, however, the researchers found the opposite pattern. In fact, highest local earthworm diversity was found in Europe, northeastern USA and New Zealand. Similar patterns were found for earthworm abundance (number of individuals per area) and earthworm biomass (mass per area) – also showing highest values in temperate regions.

At the same time, earthworm species in the tropics seem to have smaller distribution ranges. “In the tropics, if you drive just a few kilometres, you may find a whole new set of earthworm species, while in the colder regions they remain more or less the same,” says Helen Phillips. “This could mean that while there are few species found in a single location in the tropics, the total number of species across the whole region may in fact be extremely high. But we don’t know yet.” The main reason for this uncertainty is that many tropical earthworm species have not yet been described. Thus, earthworms identified at different locations could belong to the same species or not – a question to be resolved.

The researchers also assessed which environmental factors drive the number of earthworm species, as well as their abundance and biomass. They found that factors related to precipitation and temperature had the largest effects. “Based on these strong climate effects, we conclude that climate change could cause shifts in earthworm communities and change the functions and services ecosystems provide,” says Nico Eisenhauer. “Given their role as ecosystem engineers, we are concerned about potential cascading effects on other organisms like microbes, soil insects and plants.”

The results of the study have implications for conservation priorities: Biodiversity is usually an important criterion for the selection of protected areas. However, focusing only on aboveground diversity may result in insufficient protection of earthworms. Thus, belowground biodiversity needs to be included for a complete assessment – enabling conservationists to identify the planet’s true biodiversity hotspots. “It’s time for a paradigm shift in the conservation of biological diversity – because they are mostly dwelling in the soil, we easily forget about the amazing creatures under our feet,” says Nico Eisenhauer. “Earthworms may be cryptic and may not have the charisma of a panda bear, but they are extremely important for other organisms and the functioning of our ecosystems.”
Volker Hahn


Original publication:
(iDiv scientists bold)
Helen R. P. Phillips, Carlos A. Guerra, Marie L. C. Bartz, Maria J. I. Briones, George Brown, Thomas W. Crowther, Olga Ferlian, Konstantin B. Gongalsky, Johan van den Hoogen, Julia Krebs, Alberto Orgiazzi, Devin Routh, Benjamin Schwarz, Elizabeth M. Bach, Joanne Bennett, Ulrich Brose, Thibaud Decaëns, Birgitta König-Ries, Michel Loreau, Jérôme Mathieu, Christian Mulder, Wim H. van der Putten, Kelly S. Ramirez, Matthias C. Rillig, David Russell, Michiel Rutgers, Madhav P. Thakur, Franciska T. de Vries, Diana H. Wall, David A. Wardle, Miwa Arai, Fredrick O. Ayuke, Geoff H. Baker, Robin Beauséjour, José C. Bedano, Klaus Birkhofer, Eric Blanchart, Bernd Blossey, Thomas Bolger, Robert L. Bradley, Mac A. Callaham, Yvan Capowiez, Mark E. Caulfield, Amy Choi, Felicity V. Crotty, Andrea Dávalos, Darío J. Diaz Cosin, Anahí Dominguez, Andrés Esteban Duhour, Nick van Eekeren, Christoph Emmerling, Liliana B. Falco, Rosa Fernández, Steven J. Fonte, Carlos Fragoso, André L. C. Franco, Martine Fugère, Abegail T. Fusilero, Shaieste Gholami, Michael J. Gundale, Mónica Gutiérrez López, Davorka K. Hackenberger, Luis M. Hernández, Takuo Hishi, Andrew R. Holdsworth, Martin Holmstrup, Kristine N. Hopfensperger, Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, Veikko Huhta, Tunsisa T. Hurisso, Basil V. Iannone III, Madalina Iordache, Monika Joschko, Nobuhiro Kaneko, Radoslava Kanianska, Aidan M. Keith, Courtland A. Kelly, Maria L. Kernecker, Jonatan Klaminder, Armand W. Koné, Yahya Kooch, Sanna T. Kukkonen, Hmar Lalthanzara, Daniel R. Lammel, Iurii M. Lebedev, Yiqing Li, Juan B. Jesus Lidon, Noa K. Lincoln, Scott R. Loss, Raphael Marichal, Radim Matula, Jan Hendrik Moos, Gerardo Moreno, Alejandro Morón-Ríos, Bart Muys, Johan Neirynck, Lindsey Norgrove, Marta Novo, Visa Nuutinen, Victoria Nuzzo, Mujeeb Rahman P, Johan Pansu, Shishir Paudel, Guénola Pérès, Lorenzo Pérez-Camacho, Raúl Piñeiro, Jean-François Ponge, Muhammad Imtiaz Rashid, Salvador Rebollo, Javier Rodeiro- Iglesias, Miguel Á. Rodríguez, Alexander M. Roth, Guillaume X. Rousseau, Anna Rozen, Ehsan Sayad, Loes van Schaik, Bryant C. Scharenbroch, Michael Schirrmann, Olaf Schmidt, Boris Schröder, Julia Seeber, Maxim P. Shashkov, Jaswinder Singh, Sandy M. Smith, Michael Steinwandter, José A. Talavera, Dolores Trigo, Jiro Tsukamoto, Anne W. de Valença, Steven J. Vanek, Iñigo Virto, Adrian A. Wackett, Matthew W. Warren, Nathaniel H. Wehr, Joann K. Whalen, Michael B. Wironen, Volkmar Wolters, Irina V. Zenkova, Weixin Zhang, Erin K. Cameron, Nico Eisenhauer (2019) Global distribution of earthworm diversity. Science 366(6464):480–85. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax4851



 

Contact:

Dr Helen Phillips
Postdoctoral researcher at the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733122
Email: helen.phillips@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/587.html

 

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Dr Volker Hahn
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 97 33154
Email: volker.hahn@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/media

 

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sDiv Media Release Experimental Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Thu, 24 Oct 2019 00:00:00 +0200
Macaques can make palm oil more sustainable and efficient by hunting plantation rats https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1603.html Considered an oil palm pest, macaques can in fact diminish a more severe pest: rats Considered an oil palm pest, macaques can in fact diminish a more severe pest: rats

Leipzig/Gelugor. In Malaysia, wild pig-tailed macaques do not have the best reputation and are even considered a crop pest. Contrary to this, they actually feed on rats, the major oil palm pest, and can provide an important ecosystem service as biological pest control agent. This was found by a team of researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA). Their research investigates the costs and benefits of macaques foraging in oil palm plantations and was published in Current Biology.

Used as common ingredient of processed foods, cosmetics, detergents and biofuel, palm oil has become an indispensable part of our modern society. The production comes at a high cost for the environment: Decline in pristine forest cover, reduced biodiversity and impaired climate regulation functions are only some of the negative effects when tropical rainforest is turned into monocultures. To date, more than 18 million hectares of land worldwide are covered with oil palm plantations, one third of which are located in Malaysia, one of the world’s main palm oil producers.

Oil palm plantations commonly suffer high yield losses due to rats feeding on the ripe and unripe fruits. In Malaysia alone, the annual losses equal an area twice the size of Luxembourg. Consequently, rodent pests are often managed with poison. The extensive use of rodenticides is not only expensive and largely ineffective, but, most importantly, also very harmful to non-target animals and the environment. One crucial aspect of biological pest control and, thus, more sustainably managed oil palm plantations, is the identification of natural rat predators such as barn owls that have become a widely used biological alternative for conventional pest management methods. However, researchers doubt that barn owls alone can regulate rodent populations effectively. “The best way seems a combination of different predator species that cover different ecological niches, foraging either during the day or night, or in different substrates in the plantation,” says corresponding author Dr Nadine Ruppert from USM, founder of the Macaca Nemestrina Project.

In their study, the team from Malaysia and Germany assessed whether pig-tailed macaques can, indeed, significantly reduce populations of plantation rats. They investigated the foraging behaviour of two groups of wild and habituated Southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) in oil palm plantations next to a forest reserve at the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The data revealed that even though macaques also feed on palm oil fruits, they cause relatively minor direct yield losses: less than 1% compared to 10% caused by rats. More importantly, the authors estimated an annual consumption of more than 3,000 rats per macaque group in this area. “We assume that macaques are excellent pest control agents as they actively search for rats by applying a very targeted foraging technique,“ says first author Anna Holzner, doctoral researcher at UL and MPI EVA. “Unlike other predators, which hunt for rats on the plantation ground during the night, pig-tailed macaques actively remove pieces of old, persistent leaf bases from oil palm trunks to uncover rats that seek shelter during the day.” Holzner and her colleagues were also able to show that regular plantation visits by the macaques can reduce rat numbers by more than 75%. When offsetting costs and benefits, macaques can contribute to yield increases of up to 7%, which is equal to an annual monetary gain of approximately 100€ per hectare.

“We expect that our results will encourage both private and public plantation owners to consider the protection of these primates and their natural forest habitat in and around oil palm plantations,” comments senior author Prof Anja Widdig, head of the research group Primate Behavioural Ecology at MPI EVA and UL. In collaboration with local palm oil companies and NGOs, they will work towards the realisation of a plantation design that maintains viable macaque populations and higher levels of biodiversity via wildlife corridors, while increasing the plantations’ productivity and sustainability by effective and environmentally friendly pest control. “This can ultimately lead to a win-win situation for both the oil palm industry and biodiversity,” says Prof Widdig.

 

Original publication:
(iDiv researchers bold)
Anna Holzner, Nadine Ruppert, Filip Swat, Marco Schmidt, Brigitte M. Weiß, Giovanni Villa, Asyraf Mansor, Shahrul Anuar Mohd Sah, Antje Engelhardt, Hjalmar Kühl, Anja Widdig (2019), Macaques can contribute to greener practices in oil palm plantations when used as biological pest control. Current Biology, Vol. 29(20), PR1066-R1067. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.011

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Anja Widdig
Head of Research Group Primate Behavioural Ecology
Institute of Biology, Leipzig University
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9736 707
Email: anja.widdig@eva.mpg.de

 

Dr Nadine Ruppert
School of Biological Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Phone: +604 6533513
Email: n.ruppert@usm.my

 

Anna Hoizner
Institute of Biology, Leipzig University
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Phone: +49 341 9736 872
Email: anna.holzner@uni-leipzig.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research iDiv TOP NEWS Media Release iDiv Members Mon, 21 Oct 2019 00:00:00 +0200
The composition of species is changing in ecosystems across the globe https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1597.html Researchers map types and rates of biodiversity change. Researchers map types and rates of biodiversity change.

Leipzig/Halle/St Andrews. Biodiversity is changing rapidly in many places all over the world. However, while the identities of species in local assemblages are undergoing significant changes, the number of species is on average remaining relatively constant. Thus, changes in local assemblages do not always reflect the species losses occurring at the global scale. These findings are based on observations by a team of scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the University of St Andrews. Their findings, which have been published in Science, reveal greater changes in species composition in marine systems than on land, with most extreme changes in tropical marine biomes.

Human activities are fundamentally altering biodiversity. Species are declining at the global scale, but this is contrasted by highly variable trends at local scales. An international team of scientists from leading universities across Europe, the USA and Canada aimed to identify geographic variation in biodiversity change. The scientists examined longitudinal variation in species richness (number of species) and species composition (identities of species). They pieced together and mapped over 50,000 biodiversity time series from studies across the planet using the biodiversity database BioTIME, hosted at the University of St Andrews. They were then able to dissect variation in biodiversity trends to identify the places that are changing most rapidly.

Previous findings showing no net change in the number of species at local scales had proved extremely controversial. Thus, the group of researchers aimed to reach a consensus on global biodiversity change. Their meetings were hosted by sDiv, the synthesis centre at iDiv. “sDiv managed to bring people together who had very different backgrounds and find common ground”, says Prof Jonathan Chase, head of the Biodiversity Synthesis group at iDiv and MLU.

The results show how biodiversity change varies geographically. The species that make up local assemblages are changing everywhere, but rates of species richness change and turnover were higher and more variable in marine biomes, with maximum turnover rates twice those observed in terrestrial biomes. This could be due to greater sensitivities of marine species to climate warming.

Moreover, tropical marine regions are exhibiting biodiversity change at the extremes of richness gains, losses and turnover more often than other regions. “If these trends are maintained, this could lead to a dramatic restructuring of biodiversity, with potentially severe consequences for ecosystem functioning”, says first author Dr Shane Blowes from iDiv and MLU. The tropics, which harbour the majority of biological diversity, are generally considered to be where biodiversity is most threatened on the planet. In the context of climate change, there are likely fewer species available to replace those species lost in tropical zones.

“When biodiversity is in the news these days, it is often because the Amazon is on fire, or there is a global mass mortality event in coral reefs, and rightly so, because these are terrifying news”, says senior author Dr Maria Dornelas from the University of St Andrews. “However, there is a lot of recovery also taking place silently in the background, and many places where not much is happening.” The new study shows that while some locations have experienced decreases in species richness, others show increases, whereas changes in species composition are far more ubiquitous. Knowing where biodiversity change is happening – and how – is critical to planning conservation and management strategies.

Detecting geographic variation in biodiversity trends not only improves our understanding of how and where biodiversity is changing worldwide, but it can also inform conservation priorities by identifying which regions to protect and which regions to help recover. However, despite the large amount of data synthesised for this study, biodiversity monitoring overall is lacking for many regions of the planet, e.g., the deep ocean and the tropics. The study highlights the critical importance of continuing to improve the spatial coverage of biodiversity monitoring. This will lead to better understanding of global biodiversity change and appropriate conservation strategies in the future.
Kati Kietzmann

 

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists bold)
Shane A. Blowes and Sarah R. Supp, Laura H. Antão, Amanda Bates, Helge Bruelheide, Jonathan M. Chase, Faye Moyes, Anne Magurran, Brian McGill, Isla Myers-Smith, Marten Winter, Anne D. Bjorkman, Diana Bowler, Jarrett E.K. Byrnes, Andrew Gonzalez, Jes Hines, Forest Isbell, Holly Jones, Laetitia M. Navarro, Patrick Thompson, Mark Vellend, Conor Waldock, Maria Dornelas (2019), The geography of biodiversity change in marine and terrestrial assemblages. Science, 366, 339-345. DOI: https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaw1620

 

Contact:

Dr Shane Blowes
Biodiversity Synthesis
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733254
Email: shane.blowes@idiv.de

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Biodiversity Synthesis Media Release TOP NEWS Research sDiv iDiv Fri, 18 Oct 2019 00:00:00 +0200
MIE research in German TV documentary https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1598.html On 15 October 2019, MDR TV broadcasted a beautiful documentary on the Leipzig botanical... On 15 October 2019,  MDR TV broadcasted a beautiful documentary on the Leipzig botanical garden, the oldest botanical garden in Germany. You will see our iDiv gardener Alvin, our former gardener Daniel and their colleagues hard at work. After about 31 minutes into the documentary, you can see our MIE research is highlighted. Please click here to see many MIE members starring on TV. The documentary is in German.

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Molecular Interaction Ecology Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:07:17 +0200
Global South most affected by climate change and land use effects https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1595.html Where people’s needs for nature are greatest, nature’s ability to meet those needs is declining Where people’s needs for nature are greatest, nature’s ability to meet those needs is declining

Based on a media release of the Natural Capital Project

Leipzig/Stanford. By 2050, up to 5 billion people could be at higher risk of water pollution, coastal storms or under-pollinated crops with a majority living in developing countries. This is one of the most alarming results of a study recently published in Science by an international research team with contribution of the German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). The team produced a high-resolution global map showing the distribution of nature’s ability to provide services to humankind. These services are increasingly threatened by human-driven degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity. The map may improve policy and decision-making around investments in nature locally as well as globally. With the help of sustainable development, the threats to vital ecosystem services may be reduced.

Nature supports people in critical ways, often at a highly local level. A wild bee buzzes through a farm, pollinating vegetables as it goes. Nearby, wetlands remove chemicals from the farm’s runoff, protecting a community drinking water source. In communities all around the world, nature’s contributions are constantly flowing to people. A new study with contribution of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), published in Science, uses high-resolution satellite data to funnel the details of individual local analyses into one, global map. Using advanced technology and software, the researchers created interactive maps that showcase the details of local analyses on a global stage. Informed by this planet-wide analysis, the paper emphasizes nature’s declining ability to protect people from water pollution, coastal storms and under-pollinated crops.

“For the first time, we have mapped globally the overlap between the provision of ecosystem services and the areas where people are most dependent on nature to meet their needs,” said co-author Prof Henrique Miguel Pereira, head of the Biodiversity Conservation working group at iDiv and MLU. “We find that ecosystems are being degraded in places where people are particularly dependent on nature. This is very worrying and requires policies to immediately stop the degradation of ecosystems”

The researchers focused on three fundamental benefits that nature provides to people: water quality regulation, protection from coastal hazards and crop pollination. Using open-source software developed by the Natural Capital Project, they modeled how the flow of these benefits might change in the future.

5 billion could be at higher risk

Across the board, they found that where people’s needs for nature are greatest, nature’s ability to meet those needs is declining. By 2050, their projections show that up to 5 billion people could be at higher risk of water pollution, coastal storms and under-pollinated crops.

Critically, the team’s research shows that these impacts are inequitably distributed. In all scenarios, developing countries shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden. People in Africa and South Asia are the most disadvantaged in the face of diminishing contributions from nature. More than half the population in these regions is facing higher-than-average “benefit gaps,” the tangible elements — like vulnerability to coastal storms, water pollution or crop losses — that people feel when contributions from nature stop flowing. The impacts aren’t isolated to certain countries, though. Under climate change, projected sea-level rise increases risk to coastal communities everywhere and may impact over 500 million people worldwide by 2050.

Informing policies to invest in nature

In an increasingly globalized world, this new technological application of integrated, high-resolution data provides an opportunity to incorporate nature into worldwide policy decisions. With accessibility in mind, a key priority of the research was to produce high-resolution, interactive maps through an online viewer. Not only did this viewer help the team digest the data internally, but it now serves as a model for presenting complex global data to key decision-makers in a digestible way.

The goal of this research — and future projects building off this new approach — is to help inform policy and decision-making around investments in nature. For example, the models suggest that places within the Ganges Basin and parts of Eastern China can be targeted for high-impact investments in natural ecosystems. Preserving or restoring these areas’ ecosystems will help bolster the wellbeing of entire communities.

The team is looking to policymakers, development banks and other global influencers to use this information to drive sustainable development and conservation. Looking forward, the researchers are expanding their analysis to model other ecosystem benefits. They’re also looking to more deeply understand where nature’s contributions could best support the planet’s most vulnerable populations. “We’re equipped with the information we need to avert the worst scenarios our models projected and move toward an equitable, sustainable future,” said Dr Becky Chaplin-Kramer, lead scientist at Stanford’s Natural Capital Project and lead author on the study. “Now is the time to wield it.”


Original publication:
(iDiv scientists in bold)

Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Richard P. Sharp, Charlotte Weil, Elena M. Bennett, Unai Pascual, Adrian L. Vogl, Katie K. Arkema, Kate A. Brauman, Anne D. Guerry, Nick M. Haddad, Maike Hamann, Perrine Hamel, Justin A. Johnson, Lisa Mandle, Henrique M. Pereira, Stephen Polasky, Mary Ruckelshaus, M. Rebecca Shaw, Jessica M. Silver, Gretchen C. Daily(2019), Global Modeling of Nature’s Contributions to People. Science, 6462, 255-258. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3372

Interactive map:
http://viz.naturalcapitalproject.org/ipbes/

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Henrique Miguel Pereira
Head of research group Biodiversity Conservation
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
Phone: +49 341 9733137
Email: henrique.pereira@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/pereira_henrique_miguel.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Biodiversity Conservation iDiv TOP NEWS Research Media Release Tue, 08 Oct 2019 00:00:00 +0200
German fishermen’s scepticism towards EU impedes compliance with its regulations https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1592.html Game of chance experiment: In a relationship with an unpopular regulator, the truth is somewhat... Game of chance experiment: In a relationship with an unpopular regulator, the truth is somewhat elastic.

Leipzig/Hamburg/Kiel: Negative perception of a regulatory authority like the EU diminishes the honesty of those regulated, for example, that of fishermen. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Leipzig University, the University of Hamburg and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy from a game of chance experiment with EU-sceptic commercial fishermen and Brexit voters. Among other things, the findings, published in the European Economic Review, help to assess the effectiveness of unmonitored EU fisheries regulations. The experiment also revealed that the fishermen were more honest than students.

That the EU does not enjoy a good reputation among German commercial fishermen has been confirmed by many surveys, but what influence this scepticism has on honesty when, for example, complying with rules, has hitherto been unclear. In order to find out, the three economists Prof Martin Quaas (iDiv, Leipzig University), Prof Moritz Drupp (University of Hamburg) and Prof Menusch Khadjavi (Kiel Institute for the World Economy) conducted a game of chance experiment. Each of the almost 900 German commercial fishermen received a letter containing a questionnaire on economic decisions made by fishermen.

All participants were given the prospect of winning a cash prize of up to 100 euros and entering a raffle to win an additional 500 euros. Among other things, they were asked to toss a one-euro coin four times and report back to the scientists how often it came up 'heads' or 'tails'. Each 'tail' meant a five-euro win. But not everyone received the same letter: some of the letterheads showed only the logos of the research institutions while others showed part the logo of the EU. 120 fishermen took part in the study.

Statistically, the most frequent result would have to be ‘tails' twice. Four 'tails’ or none at all would be extremely rare. In the knowledge that their information could not be verified, some of the participants, as expected, made false claims in their favour and the number of reported incidences of three and four times 'tails' was disproportionately high. However, on average four out of five fishermen were truthful - when the letterhead contained only the logos of the research institutions. When the letterhead also showed the EU flag, almost one in three fishermen answered dishonestly.

"The results clearly show: In the absence of monitoring and checks, the level of honesty depends largely on the attitude of those regulated towards the regulating authority - in this case the EU," says Martin Quaas, head of the Biodiversity Economics Research Group at iDiv and Leipzig University.

Current resentment of fishermen regarding EU policy makes effective regulation difficult

In practice, honesty on the part of fishermen plays an essential role in compliance with fishing quotas and the European Union's recently introduced discard ban. Since its introduction, fishermen have had to bring the entire catch ashore and count it towards their quota - including unsaleable animals; fish which are too small, for example, and should not be caught in order to support conservation of stocks. The discard ban is intended to encourage more selective fishing techniques; bycatch does not usually survive capture and the unwanted animals are thrown back dead into the sea. This practice is now banned but, so far, checks have rarely been carried out.

"Monitoring would cost a lot of money," says Moritz Drupp, first author and Assistant Professor for Environmental Economics at the University of Hamburg who began the study at the University of Kiel. "Therefore, the question of how honest fishermen are with an unpopular regulatory authority is of vital interest in regulating public resources such as marine fish.”

Increased dishonesty as a result of suspicion towards an authority can be generalised

However, the tendency towards dishonesty in dealings with the EU is not limited to commercial fishermen. This was demonstrated using the same coin toss experiment with another EU-cynical group: Brexit voters. If the origin of the survey was presumed to be the European Union, dishonest results for personal financial gain were also more frequently reported for this group than if the EU reference was missing. “From this we conclude that dishonesty in dealings with a sceptically viewed supervisory authority can be regarded as generally valid," says Menusch Khadjavi, also co-author of the study and researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

"In the past, EU fisheries regulation was often half-hearted and not very effective; more transparent and effective regulation may well increase fishermen's confidence in the EU in the long term. Our study shows that the authority would then be able to rely more on fishermen’s honesty," concludes Martin Quaas.

"Some of the fishermen reported that they found the researchers’ tasks rather childish," says the Secretary General of the German Fisheries Association, Dr Peter Breckling. "That makes it all the more gratifying to now see the important results of the study."

The fact that commercial fishermen are not fundamentally or especially dishonest is also shown by another control experiment in this study. This was carried out at the same time with students from Kiel University as the subjects. Less than half of the participants reported their coin toss results honestly.
Sebastian Tilch

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists in bold)

Drupp, M. A., Khadjavi, M., Quaas, M. F. (2019), Truth-telling and the regulator. Experimental evidence from commercial fishermen. European Economic Review 120. DOI: 10,1016/y.euroecorev.2019,103310

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Martin Quaas
Head of research group Biodiversity Economics
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
Leipzig University
Phone: Please contact the iDiv Media and Communications department
Email: martin.quaas@idiv.de

 

Prof Dr Moritz Drupp
Fakultät für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften
Universität Hamburg
Phone: +49 40 42838 6171
Email: moritz.drupp@uni-hamburg.de
Web: http://www.wiso.uni-hamburg.de/envecon.html

 

Prof Dr Menusch Khadjavi
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel
Phone: +49 431 8814 631
Email: menusch.khadjavi@ifw-kiel.de
Web: https://www.ifw-kiel.de/de/experten/ifw/menusch-khadjavi/

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/central_management/media_and_communications.html

 

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Media Release TOP NEWS Biodiversity Economics Mon, 30 Sep 2019 00:00:00 +0200
Building bridges in Central Germany https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1593.html Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft grants 5 million euros for novel approach to investigate mechanisms... Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft grants 5 million euros for novel approach to investigate mechanisms underlying biodiversity and ecosystem functions at Jena Experiment

Joint media release of iDiv, the University of Leipzig and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Jena/Leipzig. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) funds a new research unit at the Jena Experiment with a total of 5 million euros for five years. The research will be lead by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the University of Leipzig and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and will investigate the mechanisms underlying the relation between biodiversity and ecosystem functions. For this purpose, the new research unit will also make use of other research platforms.

The diversity of species determines ecosystem functioning and, thus, the ecosystem services that are vital for humankind. However, we know only very little about the underlying mechanisms. This is now set to change: A new research unit will investigate, which mechanisms shape the relation between biodiversity and ecosystem services in the short and long term. The new unit will be led by Prof Nico Eisenhauer, head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology at iDiv and the University of Leipzig.

Until 2002, the later Jena Experiment was just an ordinary agricultural area: about 10 hectares in size, nestled in the floodplain of the river Saale and managed in a traditional way. To date, more than 500 experimental plots are breeding ground for different combinations of meadow plants: There are plots with only one plant species, others with two, four, eight, sixteen or even sixty different species. This unique fieldside laboratory allows the collection of long-term data and helps to find answers to fundamental questions about the role of species diversity and ecosystem functions. In the past, scientists already aimed to understand the complexity of ecosystems with the help of the Jena Experiment – from species to nutrient cycles; from plants to microorganisms and to animals. This innovative approach made the Jena Experiment internationally renowned.

The new DFG Research Unit wants to build on this reputation – and break new ground. Researchers from the fields of ecology, biochemistry and microbiology will be working together. “We will bundle expertise in Central Germany and beyond,” says Nico Eisenhauer. “This will be a unique collaborative approach. At the same time, we are building bridges between two experimental platforms: the Jena Experiment and the iDiv Ecotron.” The scientists will combine field experiments with tests in the controlled environment of the so-called iDiv Ecotron. This allows a detailed investigation of the mechanisms that shape the relation between biodiversity and ecosystems. “We know that species-rich communities are more resilient when it comes to extreme climate events. They also produce higher yields and have better protection against pathogens. If we can understand why this is the case, then we will be one step closer to a practical application of this knowledge,” says Eisenhauer.

The new research unit will try to answer these and other questions in 12 subprojects involving 12 German research institutions, including the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). International collaborations include universities from the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland and the US.

Kati Kietzmann

Original publication:
(iDiv scientists in bold)

Eisenhauer N, Bonkowski M, Brose U, Buscot F, Durka W, Ebeling A, Fischer M, Gleixner G, Heintz-Buschart A, Hines J, Jesch A, Lange M, Meyer S, Roscher C, Scheu S, Schielzeth H, Schloter M, Schulz S, Unsicker S, van Dam NM, Weigelt A, Weisser WW, Wirth C, Wolf J, Schmid B (2019) Biotic interactions, community assembly, and eco-evolutionary dynamics as drivers of long-term biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships. Research Ideas and Outcomes 5: e47042. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.5.e47042

 

Contact:

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167
Email: nico.eisenhauer@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/eisenhauer_nico.html

 

Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733106
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de

 

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Research TOP NEWS Experimental Interaction Ecology iDiv Media Release Mon, 30 Sep 2019 00:00:00 +0200
Martin Volf wins Alexander von Humboldt Return Fellowship https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1586.html iDiv postdoctoral researcher Martin Volf received an Alexander von Humboldt Return Fellowship to... iDiv postdoctoral researcher Martin Volf received an Alexander von Humboldt Return Fellowship to continue his research on chemical defence mechanisms of trees against herbivorous insects. Volf has been a Humboldt Research Fellow and postdoctoral researcher in the iDiv research group Molecular Interaction Ecology (MIE) for the last two years. In particular, he studied the localized induction of volatiles and other defences in trees, their impact on predation and the cascading effects on insect herbivores. His current project with the MIE group ends in October. He will then start a new position at the Czech Academy of Sciences to investigate evolutionary aspects of the insect-plant arms race and the genesis of plant chemical diversity. The Alexander von Humboldt Return Fellowship will allow him to continue his collaboration with iDiv.

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Molecular Interaction Ecology TOP NEWS Wed, 25 Sep 2019 10:41:29 +0200
Climate and biodiversity go hand in hand – climate change destroys our natural resources https://www.idiv.de//en/news/news_single_view/1585.html iDiv scientists call for action to tackle climate and biodiversity change. iDiv scientists call for action to tackle climate and biodiversity change.

Leipzig. Global warming is changing nature and its diversity. It puts the resources at risk, that our diet and fundamental aspects of human life rely on. Increasing scarcity of clean water and fertile soil may lead to global conflicts. Many employees from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) will participate in the Fridays for Future demonstration which takes place on 20 September in Leipzig to get this on top of the political agenda. iDiv reseachers Nicole van Dam and Roel van Klink plan to give statements at Leipzig's Augustusplatz.

Statement by iDiv researcher Dr Roel van Klink: 

"We are here to remind our government that climate change is the largest threat our civilization has ever seen. We are here to remind them that they have the obligation to protect their citizens from its catastrophic consequences, no matter if that will happen next year or in 200 years. And we are here to remind them that they have the power to prevent the worst from happening. But climate change is not the only threat to the future of humankind.

We depend on nature. Nature provides us with food, clean water and air, wood and energy, and we enjoy being in nature. Nature is beautiful and interesting, relaxing, and sometimes scary. In other words, nature is part of us, and we’re part of nature. Yet, we’re destroying nature at an unprecedented rate.

It is estimated that there are some 8 million plant and animal species on earth. According to the report of the World Biodiversity Council earlier this year, one million species of these species are threatened with extinction. Also the diversity of our livestock species is declining. Almost 10% of all mammalian domestic livestock breeds have already gone extinct. This loss of diversity at all levels threatens our food security and wellbeing. And the climate crisis will make this much, much worse.

The grounds for the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are deeply connected: overfishing and deforestation are made possible by the use of fossil fuels. The fossil fuel use leads to global warming, which causes the and the dying of the coral reefs. New threats keep emerging, such as the plastic pollution that is now everywhere, with unknown consequences for our health and for the natural world. At the same time, nature and biodiversity can provide solutions against the effects of climate change, for example by providing coastal protection and carbon storage in bogs and forests. 

And this is why these two crises must be tackled together.

The science is clear: we cannot continue living the way we do now. We need transformative changes to our economic system to prevent the climate catastrophe and the global mass extinction. If we continue with business as usual, this will cause war, famine and poverty, hundreds of millions of people will have to flee from their homes, and many thousands of species will go extinct.

What we need is to stop greenhouse gas emissions immediately, and the transformation to a sustainable civilization. Because we don’t want to go extinct, and neither does any other species.

Right here is where the change begins. With all of us. And we will not stop until we have secured a better future. For everyone.

Thank you."

 

Contact:

Dr Roel van Klink
Postdoc at sDiv Synthesis Centre
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733135
Email: roel.klink@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/788.html

 

Prof Dr Nicole van Dam
Head of research group Molecular Interaction Ecology
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller-University Jena (FSU)
Phone: +49 341 9733165
Email: nicole.vandam@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/van_dam_nicole.html

 

Sebastian Tilch
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9733197
Email: sebastian.tilch@idiv.de
Web: https://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/central_management/media_and_communications.html

 

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iDiv sDiv Media Release TOP NEWS Wed, 18 Sep 2019 00:00:00 +0200